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Posts Tagged ‘aubrey anderson’

I’m delighted to welcome Aubrey Anderson back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the upcoming release of her new Pride and Prejudice variation serial. I’m especially excited about Aubrey’s project because I like the idea of a series of shorter works, especially now when there’s so much going on in the world and summer is here and it can be difficult to stay focused on a longer book. Aubrey is here to share a little about the serial, as well as an excerpt, which I hope you all enjoy as much as I did. Please give her a warm welcome!

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I want to thank you Anna for allowing me onto your blog once again to share an excerpt for a Pride and Prejudice Variation Serial—that’s right, a serial! There will be 12, novella length episodes to this project. The first episode of Unpolished Society: Lady of the Manor will be debuting July 3rd, available on Kindle Unlimited only. 

Unpolished Society: Lady of the Manor follows the Bennets during a rather tumultuous time—before the Bennets can even contemplate mourning the death of Mrs. Bennet, following the birth of Lydia, a distant relative contacts them to inform Mr. Bennet that he has inherited a title. Faced with not only being able to provide his daughters with a tempting dowry, but a new title and estates to go with it, Thomas Bennet decides he must remarry as soon as possible. 

And the bride he settles on? None other than Caroline Bingley, a young debutante entering her second season.

This serial will not only explore the new relationships and family members that the Bennets make because of their inheritance, but also the ramifications of meeting certain characters before that fateful evening at the Meryton Assembly Ball that we all know and love. The main couple will, of course, be Elizabeth and Darcy, but there is room for others.

I am pretty excited about this plot, as I have constantly thought about and gone over it in my head for a year now. Please enjoy the following excerpt.

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This excerpt takes place from the pov of a young Elizabeth Bennet, just as her father has announced he is engaged to Caroline Bingley. This excerpt may not make it into the final product, but it is a fun tease to hint at future woes for the Bennets and Bingleys.

Elizabeth tugged at the stiff satin of the ribbon at the back of her head. Her new nursemaid had tied it far too tight, and she longed for the carefree days she spent at Longbourn a few weeks previously.

“Stand up straight, dear,” Miss Bingley’s criticism came from behind her, only seconds before she felt her soon-to-be stepmother directly at her back. Miss Bingley laid an unwelcoming hand at the center of her back, guiding her with a little push. Besides Elizabeth, Jane had not even noticed the interaction, so intent and eager she was to meet the rest of Miss Bingley’s relations. 

At Miss Bingley’s gentle pressure, Elizabeth acceded and obeyed the will of her almost-stepmother. Her beloved papa would not interfere, she knew. He was besotted with Miss Bingley, or so she and Jane had overheard the ladies maids at Althorpe claim.

After a few hours of boredom—as she had met every Bingley relative on the face of the earth, all of whom insisted on patting her cheeks or her tightly bound hair—Elizabeth was able to make her escape.

“Lizzie?” her Uncle Gardiner’s concerned tone stopped her. “Where are you going?” Her uncle had been across the room, speaking to her papa, Miss Bingley, and Mr. Bingley, but apparently, he had caught sight of her attempted escape before her own father.

Elizabeth forced a smile. “Mary asked me to get her a book, uncle,” she lied smoothly, gesturing to the window seat that Mary had all but disappeared into. Searching her face for the slightest hint of deception, but finding none, her uncle waved her off, and Elizabeth continued her journey to find some peace away from the fawning relatives of her stepmother. 

Happily hidden away in the library, Elizabeth ducked between the shelves into the small alcove, hoping she’d ripped or dirtied the wretched gown that Miss Bingley had presented her with only hours ago so that they might all match.

As a newly formed family should, she’d said.

It was a relatively short time later that Elizabeth felt that she should perhaps choose a book and leave before anyone came looking for her, or before she had to endure another scolding when the door flew open. To her surprise, her almost-stepmother and a man she didn’t know entered the room hastily, making sure to close the door behind them. 

Miss Bingley seemed furious, but also rather anxious, and Elizabeth could not tell the expression on the man’s face, as his back was to her. She tried to be quiet and withdraw further into the alcove when the man suddenly pulled Miss Bingley to him, kissing her quite soundly for a few long moments, before Miss Bingley pushed him away.

“I am engaged, John, if you do recall,” she stated in her horrid drawling, sarcastic tone, “to a man worth far more than you. What you believe we had, is over,” she said dismissively, but firmly.

“Oh aye,” the man was unconcerned, and his attitude seemed light, even playful. “For now,” he agreed. “After you give the old man a son or two, I’ll be waiting for you, Caro.”

Elizabeth clapped her hand over her mouth to stop her gasp and was relieved when they made no movements towards her. If she could inform her papa of this betrayal before Miss Bingley found out that Elizabeth had seen her rendezvous, Elizabeth was quite sure Miss Bingley would be unable to talk her way out of it.

“Leave before anyone sees you,” Miss Bingley hissed, seemingly angrier than before, her composure gone. With a laugh and a mocking bow, the man did as his lover commanded, and left. 

Heaving a great sigh, twisting the amethyst and jade ring that Elizabeth’s papa had given her, Miss Bingley appeared to be contemplating something—a tryst with her lover, perhaps—before also leaving to rejoin the party. 

Waiting ten more minutes to be sure that neither of the two returned, Elizabeth slipped out of the room, a small bubble of happiness welling within her. There would undoubtedly be several changes made in the future, of that she was sure.

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Doesn’t that make you want to read more?!? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Thank you for sharing with us today, Aubrey, and congratulations on your upcoming release.

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Hello, my friends! I’m delighted to welcome Aubrey Anderson and Marion Kay Hill back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the upcoming release of their latest collection of Pride and Prejudice short story variations, The Pocket Book Series: Volume 2: Gaslighting & Gallantry. Aubrey and Marion are here today to talk about the collection and share an excerpt. They have a question for you dear readers, and they come bearing gifts for some lucky readers! Please give them a warm welcome:

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Thank you, Anna, for once again inviting us to share an excerpt, this time from our second volume of The Pocket Book Series, which is up for pre-order on Amazon. We greatly appreciated all the wonderful reader comments on the last passage we shared, so we are excited to do it once again.

Our intent with this series is always to inform the reader in our synopsis what level of heat they could expect within our six short stories. However, we have hit a roadblock with Volume 2: Gaslighting and Gallantry and were hoping to enlist your help in determining the rating we should award this volume, based on the excerpt we have included below.

Another Miscalculation, the bonus material included in this volume, is, in fact, a continuation of one of the shorts from our first volume, Rumors & Revelations, which is currently available on Amazon. You do not need to purchase the first book to follow this second, though they complement each other, but this excerpt contains the scene we are questioning.

You may also be curious about our title, one which we had planned from the advent of this series, and have included detailed information as to what Gaslighting means in our synopsis on Amazon.  Here is a snippet of that synopsis:

Subtle or overt gaslighting, or attempt at overwriting another’s known reality, was exhibited more than once as important plot points by Jane Austen in “Pride & Prejudice.” It is not shocking that Caroline Bingley was one of the master manipulators, but it would surprise some to know Mr Darcy had a hand in it as well. While one was arguably intentionally done and the other not, the plot to separate Jane and Mr Bingley happened through many conniving moves affecting the couple and what they thought they knew was developing between them. Luckily for them, Elizabeth Bennet did not fall for the subterfuge.

Though gaslighting was not a term known during the regency era, Austen not only displayed it brilliantly, she demonstrated that the gallant party could come also in the form of a former gaslighting offender, not just a beloved sister. This is seen in the event that occurred between Lt. Wickham and Lydia Bennet. Speculations as to his true motivations rarely say that the master seducer had intentional designs of marrying Lydia without any proper inducement. What may or may not have happened had Mr Darcy not pursued them is for another time, but in his act, he showed he had learned from his previous behaviours.

So, read the excerpt and let us know – if this is the friskiest Darcy and Elizabeth get, would you still consider this a “sweet” romance collection? Or would you like to be forewarned with a “mature content” warning? Is there an in-between?

Please note, this is an ARC excerpt of Another Miscalculation and may alter slightly in its final version in production. If you would like to receive the entire bonus story, Another Miscalculation, in advance to publication, please comment on that request as well and you will be contacted!

Please comment with your vote for “sweet” or “mature” or any other heat signifier by May 28, 2020, to win one of 5 free digital copies of the entire Volume 2! Enjoy! 

Aubrey Anderson & Marion Kay Hill

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The Pocket Book Series, Vol. 2: Gaslighting & Gallantry

Another Miscalculation

Chapter 1

THE UNWITTING DISCOVERY

Darcy felt helpless as he swung at the flying insect that would not leave him alone. So preoccupied with the task of successfully making contact with the annoying beast, he almost stood up, something he suspected he should not do. This assumption was solely based on the heat source applied to his upper thigh. A hand was placed there and was applying a gentle, but firm pressure.

Taking a few deep breaths, Darcy knew acting on his thoughts would not be appropriate in their current situation, especially considering how close their proximity was to the gates of the Hunsford parsonage. Directing his attention away from the hand on his leg and the additional warmth emanating from the figure at his side, Darcy looked through the bushes to see what his partner was diligently watching and could see nothing but trees, grass, and gravel.

“Elizabeth, I agreed to take your lead, but when we made that agreement, I was unaware that meant hiding in the dirt.”

On their way back from agreeing to an understanding-that their futures were entwined-Darcy and Elizabeth did minimal speaking. The distance took them twice as long to walk, because they made frequent, unplanned stops. During those embraces, Elizabeth could have asked Darcy for anything, and he would have granted it. He vaguely had a notion that she explained why they were to keep their presence unknown until a precise moment occurred, but the reason was not coming to mind at the moment.

To say Darcy was blissfully ignorant was an understatement, but in truth, nothing mattered to him as long as he was at Elizabeth’s side. And he would be, now and forever.

They had some ironing out to do in regards to the objections to their match one of her relations had raised and, of course, those from Lady Catherine, but seeing that Elizabeth no longer held any complaints the others were of no consequence. Had it not been a comment by Elizabeth during dinner at Rosings the other night, Darcy could not guess whether they would have the understanding they did now.

Darcy mentally chuckled to himself how close he came to not ever having her for his own, keenly aware that his current elation was due to the relief from the despair he felt last night and earlier this morning. There was even a point he thought he might have to forgo Elizabeth and see her married to another while marrying his cousin Anne. What a dastardly thought that all was now.

Elizabeth’s hand moved from his thigh, and he felt a cold void where the warmth once was. Her only response to his inquiry was to place a finger over his lips, in a gesture he was sure was meant to quiet him, but he could not help but accept it as an invitation to kiss her hand.

After allowing several gentle presses and rewarding him with a soft giggle, Elizabeth returned her hand to his thigh. In most sitting positions, he would have gladly allowed this indulgent touch to continue, but his legs were not used to a squatting position and had begun to cramp.

Trying as he might to withstand moving, which most likely would end their close contact, Darcy finally gave in and pushed himself into a sitting position. As the move was unrehearsed, he somehow pinned Elizabeth’s hand between his thigh and lower abdomen and pulled her with him. Though the action lasted only a moment, and she was able to free her hand quickly, the initial force from the tug was enough to pull her body forward with him.

Landing atop him as though it was by design, they both gave out silent chuckles. Holding the position for a moment, Elizabeth, whose head was closer to Darcy’s stomach than face, looked up at him with a contented smile, one he could not help but return. Darcy was sure she could tell his breathing was beginning to quicken, but he did not care. The fact that she was looking at him in such a fashion was making his heart swell, and his thoughts rush to the possibilities of the future.

Of course, two days ago, before that fateful dinner, had he been told that they would be laying in such a position, his first thought would have assumed it was a natural progression of their betrothal. The second would have been that it was nowhere near proper for the future mistress of his estate to encourage such behaviour from him. Darcy, at that earlier point, assumed she felt the same as him and that she was eager to become his obedient wife.

That thought had him almost guffawing at his arrogance. Indeed, Elizabeth even rightly interpreted his expectations of her when they argued over the possibility of their marrying. When they first met this morning, her behaviour was so jarring, and unlike her, he wondered if he had even perceived her truly before. How could he have ever thought he wanted anything but the real Elizabeth as his wife.

Deferential and docile were not attributes of Elizabeth Bennet, nor would they be of any woman that would attract him. Yet, his father had a different notion as to what a man should expect in a wife, and it had been ingrained into Darcy since birth. He had been able to mentally supersede the voice of his father in regards to the gentlewoman who would attract the offer of his hand, but he had been less successful in presenting himself that way.

Loyal, courageous, honourable, faithful, devoted-all those that he once thought of himself is what he saw in Elizabeth. That she stood her ground this morning and laid at his feet the gaps in his character that he had to mend was humbling. But with those difficult conversations, she showed him that she trusted him to better himself, and he knew he could be the man she needed him to be.

His internal mirth quickly broke to the acknowledgement that those thoughts were still a part of him. His father’s words had filled his head so long; it will take great practice to tame them. Elation about her decision to entertain being married to him did not change who he was, and she had made it clear that he could do better.

He felt a surge of pride and gratefulness in Elizabeth’s confidence in him. It would not truly be a change in his character, as he could remember a time when his mother encouraged him to act better, but those learnings seemed to be a lifetime ago. He would do his best in welcoming Elizabeth’s opinions and assistance, as he knew she would not hesitate to provide them.

How could he have ever thought a passive acceptance of his hand would make him happy? He was sure there would be more battles to win, but having gone through the past two days has felt like they were genuinely forging a connection, one that would withstand time.

Elizabeth was peering through the hedges and turned back to Darcy with a relieved look on her face. Instead of telling him what she saw, or in actuality, did not see, her expression changed momentarily to one of bemused questioning in an apparent reaction to his admiring grin. It was but a moment, as her eyes darkened, and he immediately sensed her quickening breath.

He looked around and saw how perfect a hiding spot she had chosen. They were surrounded in shrubs and fully shadowed by several large trees. Unless someone was specifically looking for them or they were reasonably unlucky, it was not highly likely they would be detected. That is unless one of them stood up or made a sound, and Elizabeth had handled the former, and he would be sure not to violate the latter.

He pulled her along his body to have them finally face to face. Darcy paused, nose to nose with Elizabeth, and waited for her to be comfortable once again. It did not take long, and she initiated the kiss. This new position allowed Elizabeth to exert more pressure than she had dared before.

She was grateful for this exciting new element to their encounters as this was all still very new to her. When she was younger and played out in the fields with the neighbourhood children, there were times when she accepted a kiss from a friend or delivered one on a dare. Still, it had been some time since she allowed herself to even entertain a delightful little peck on the cheek or quick touch to the lips by a beau. Any thoughts as a lady out in society did not go anywhere near an interaction such as this.

To think, only days ago, she would not even have considered Mr Darcy an option for one of those thoughts. How had she allowed herself to be compromised in such a way by him now? Because, indeed, that was what was happening, as their marriage had been implied, but not even verbally secured. Not to say that her agreeing, or even her father signing a marriage agreement, was enough to warrant this behaviour, as she would never have imagined doing such a thing with anyone but her actual husband.

Darcy’s hands, which he had placed near her shoulders initially, began to move up and down her back slowly. This new sensation, in this provocative position, sufficiently distracted Elizabeth from her current line of thought. She had not realised that as her thoughts neared personal condemnation, her kisses became lighter and lighter.

Feeling the change in her movements of pace and pressure, which included Elizabeth freely running her hands through his hair and up and down his arms, Darcy began to unconsciously move his own hands to explore and learn this new terrain. That it was Elizabeth he was experiencing this with had created such a thrill in him, he dared not move more than his arms, for fear he would give away his excitement.

Deciding her actions, their concealment, and the still early hour allowed them to be a bit bolder, he began to reach lower. When no adverse reaction came from her, he dared to explore and feel as far as he could reach. The thrill of this freedom, of all his new hopes and desires culminating at this moment, he broke their lip-locked kiss and began kissing down her face to her neck.

Elizabeth let out a quiet moan akin to that of the one she did earlier when he accidentally stroked the side of her breast, but this time, she did not pull away. Instead, she leaned her head back to allow him more access to her. However, this now was not enough for Darcy.

With a low groan, he grabbed onto her and swung them both over, so he was now on top. She was surprised by the action, but it quickly turned into an amused smile, one he did not return for long, as she reached up for him to kiss her again. He had not missed her heavy breathing or her rose-stained cheeks, all that culminated in him desiring more.

Trailing again down the path of kissing her cheek, chin, and then neck, he had unrestricted access to continue moving lower. As he did, Elizabeth’s back arched to meet him, and he blindly began to remove Elizabeth’s dress and shift from one of her shoulders. Feeling the velvety soft texture under his fingertips, a wave of intensity swept over him, and he could not keep from tugging more at her garment and continuing to kiss down her shoulder towards her arm.

As he got past her collarbone, he could not keep from taking a quick nip of her soft skin. Looking down at her shoulder he experienced a mingled feeling of pride that he would be the only one to ever leave such a spot on her, and disappointment, that the mark itself, though light and temporary, had reddened her smooth complexion.

Looking back to his Elizabeth, he was jolted out of this euphoric state by the expression on her turned away face. Darcy then realised that her whole form had gone ridged, and she now clutched her hands into fits at her sides. He had been aware that after they swapped positions, her hands and arms had only held him, but he assumed that was because she was overwhelmed at experiencing something new.

Elizabeth was overwhelmed, but she did not consider it unfavourable. Though she may not use the same words of felicity he would, she was stimulated and amazed at this experience in her own way. When he flipped them over, she was shocked at the move, but mostly she was secretly thrilled that this was happening with him.

Though she had been suppressing it at every turn, Elizabeth realised she began to let the happiness she felt at being admired by someone such as him start to filter into her consciousness. That a man, as powerful, wealthy, and to be honest, handsome, as him, wanted her, Elizabeth Bennet, was beyond flattering. And she did feel flattered, but unlike with Wickham, whose notice of her was above that of her younger sister who made everything a competition, Darcy’s implied approbation of her as a whole was very gratifying.

As her Mama would say, to attract such a man was the epitome of her existence. Only a title would trump Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley of Derbyshire, with 10,000 a year, if that was what he earned, but she was able to succeed where no one else did, with no effort of conscious doing of her own. She could not lie, she now will receive full enjoyment at the accounts of shock from Mrs Bennet, when she hears the news of their betrothal. The validation of who she was and how she conducted herself would buoy her spirits throughout the likely hardships they were to experience due to the actions of others.

And Darcy, one who she would never have suspected, picked her. Had she known, would she have behaved differently-? She could not say and decided it would be futile to speculate.

As Darcy made his way down her neck to her shoulder, she could not help but wonder what their engagement would be like. Was it too late for her to ask for a courtship? Not considering the damage that Lady Catherine and her cousin had already wrought on their reputations, would she be so bold as to set some ground rules with him as to what she wanted before they wed? Indeed, what she needed. Though they seemed intertwined now for life, she still felt she needed to know more of him in a setting that did not also come with the demands and duties of a position.

And then he bit her. It was only a pinch, something that she would not even have cried out over, but it was a step too far. A line she did not realise she had, but it had been crossed.

This was only day two, after all, and what had they done? What was she allowing them to do? She could not say this was all Darcy’s doing, because he was considerate and asked or looked for her approval every step of the way. She was an equal participant in this, this, whatever this was. Did married couples even behave such as this? What was she doing?

All Elizabeth could do was turn her head away and go still. She had no power to say anything to alert him to any of her thoughts. What would she say, even if she could? Her hands began to hurt as she became painfully aware that she was pressing her fingernails into the palms. So distracted, she was not aware when Darcy noticed she was no longer reciprocating his advances.

It was a pregnant moment before Darcy found his voice to speak.

“Elizabeth -” She cut him off with just a look. One mingled with fear and desperation. He hoped he understood her silent communication and moved to sitting next to her, affecting a casual and calm pose with one knee bent underneath him and an arm draped over the other.

He then was able to take her all in and saw that his last yank at her clothing to expose more of her arm and shoulder, actually bared her left breast as well. Momentarily not able to look away, more due to being astonished than of desire, Elizabeth followed his line of sight to her chest and sat quickly up, whispering to herself.

Perversely, when Darcy first sat up, she could not help but feel a wave of desire roll over her. A dishevelled Darcy was a very handsome one. A new flutter shot through her as she knew she would be the only one from here on out to witness him as such. The betrayal of her body at this sight, coupled with her realising, she had more flesh exposed than she ever imagined, brought a shot of hot shame to her entire body.

Shaking, Elizabeth covered herself the best she could. She held one of her hands to her chest to keep her garments from falling as she attempted to sit more up. Darcy held out his hands to help her, and she could do nothing but swat his hands away as the tears she had been holding back were now spilling over her cheeks.

Finally, in a kneeling position, she dared not meet his gaze and managed to swivel her body around so her back was to him. Taking a moment to allow herself to sob quietly, she decided to think about what was the next step and leave the personal anguish she felt to dissect later. Right now, they needed to get themselves out of this concealed location and into the company of others. Because she understood she could not be trusted to be alone with him anymore, because more lines would begin to be crossed. Lines that had higher consequences.

When Elizabeth first sat up, she had whispered, “No, no, no, no.” And if it was not for the distress he felt on her behalf, and for her reaction, it might have been enough to make him crumble. Here was a human being who had full power over him, whether she knew it or not. His ego and emotional state were hers to control and most likely would be until he felt more secure in their connection.

Her swatting his hands away felt like a stinging rebuke. Would she ever allow him to touch her again? He was sure it was not as bad as that, but he could not help but wonder what he could do to fix the situation. If only he had controlled himself, had not moved beyond kissing, which she permitted.

“Elizabeth, did I harm you?” Elizabeth stilled in her actions the second he began to speak. A sharp shake of her head and a raised hand was all the response she could offer.

She deserved better than this. Not because she was his betrothed, but because he wanted her to have it all, especially from him. The thought of reducing her to tears was the final blow, and he slumped over.

The little flying pest had returned, and he began doing his best to shoo it away. The fly was small and plainly inexperienced as it kept giving him the opportunity to kill it. Could he hope that was all that distressed Elizabeth? Her inexperience?

He smoothed his hair and what he could of his attire and noticed her shawl laying to his side. It was a crisp morning, and she had been laying half-naked on the cold earth, something he had not even taken into consideration. Who now was the one showing his inexperience?

Elizabeth looked at her attire and then at the small movement on her right. Darcy had tossed over her shawl, and she picked it up and inspected it. A breeze moved through, and she was suddenly aware of how cool of a day it was, something she had not honestly thought about earlier. Her cheeks grew pink as she was sure it was his company that had kept her warm previously.

Turning the shawl over, Elizabeth realised there was no way to hide the dirt and embedded leaves in the thick material. Her eyes began to burn with fresh tears. Even if she was able to perfectly smooth her hair and right her clothing, as she knew she could not, the damage done to her white shawl was nothing that could be easily explained away.

Rigidly wiping the tears from her cheeks, Elizabeth gave herself a chance to take one more deep breath, and then turned around. Her sudden movement startled Darcy to attention, and she could not help admire that he looked just as he had this morning. She could not imagine anyone questioning his appearance.

The disparity in how they appeared brought the disgrace of what she had done to the forefront of her mind. It was right for her not to be able to hide her dishevelment. It was her cross to bear, and she was strong enough for this. It was a choice she made, and she was soon to be a mistress of a household and needed to begin assuming the role she would lead. That others would look to her to lead.

Darcy watched her, in her kneeling position, look him once over and then herself and wondered at her conclusion. She looked enchanting as always but seemed to be concerned about their outward appearances when they were on the hill, so he waited for her inspection to be complete before speaking.

Her complexion was the palest he had ever seen, and she appeared to have begun to cry again. Though silent, the sight of her tears made him want to grovel at her feet and beg her to tell him how to fix it. This submissive thought surprised him, but he did not have a chance to think more on the subject as Elizabeth lifted her shoulders and straightened her back, an action he recognised from his father when he came to a decision that was about to be announced.

In a low but firm voice, Elizabeth laid out her plan. “Though I do believe you could pass under inspection, I, on the other hand, would not. I think we should both return to our respective homes and right ourselves and then meet back at the parsonage.”

She finished what she had to say, and though her head was held high, and her posture perfect, she did not meet his eyesight, which was beginning to unnerve him. Elizabeth spoke of separating but meeting back up again, soon, but he needed further assurance from her. Darcy needed to know her thoughts; he could not leave assuming he knew. He would not ever do that again.

Darcy reached out to take her hand, and before he touched her, she flinched and reflexively pulled her hand back. With an apologetic look on her face, she finally looked him in the eye. But only for a moment.

“We will talk later. Meet me at the parsonage in an hour.” And with that, she stood up, turned around and gave out a small yelp.

“Miss Bennet, what has happened?”

Quickly scrambling to his feet, Darcy was met with the sight of his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, who was rapidly closing the space across the lawn between them and the lane to the parsonage.

“Darcy? What are you doing here?” It only took the Colonel a moment to take in both of their appearances and their location to come to a fairly accurate conclusion as to what they were doing.

Elizabeth’s head, neck, and shoulders were all red, and she would not make eye contact with either gentleman. After an extended awkward pause, Elizabeth shifted her weight to the side and gave a curtsey.

“Gentlemen.” As she turned to leave, her shawl shifted, and Colonel Fitzwilliam saw the left shoulder of her dress was torn, and he instantly became stern.

This was the first Darcy saw of the ripped material and felt remorse once again, over his actions. As Elizabeth hurried towards the parsonage, Darcy could not help but follow her with his eyes the entire way, hoping she might turn to give him a small smile or some indication that all would be alright. But it was not meant to be. She walked straight up to the parsonage, paused a moment before opening the door, and then went in.

Turning back to his cousin, who had not stopped staring at him with a look of disgust, Darcy could only look at him expectantly. He would not be discussing Elizabeth and his relationship with anyone, beyond the minor details a father or protector might need to know, and his cousin was no exception.

After a long pause, Darcy lifted an eyebrow, and the Colonel finally spoke. “Her Ladyship has sent me to find you. You have been summoned.”

With a sigh, Darcy nodded and began to move around the hedge to join his cousin back to Rosings. He was stopped by a hand on his shoulder.

“And after that, cousin, we need to talk.” By the tone in his voice, it seemed the Colonel had assigned himself the role of protector.

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What did you think? Leave your thoughts about the heat level of the excerpt in the comments for a chance to win. Good luck!

And thank you to Aubrey and Marion for being my guests today. Congratulations on your upcoming release!

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I’m excited to welcome Aubrey Anderson and Marion Kay Hill to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the upcoming release of The Pocket Book Series: Volume 1: Rumors & Revelations, a collection of Pride and Prejudice short story variations. They are here to share an excerpt and a giveaway. Please give them a warm welcome!

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We would like to thank Anna for having us on her blog to announce the introductory volume in The Pocket Book Series of our Pride & Prejudice Short Story Variations, now available for pre-order on Amazon. This marks the first collaborative set of works between Aubrey and Marion and we are very excited about sharing them with you all.

In The Pocket Book Series, Volume 1: Rumors & Revelations, we explore the ramifications from a simple – or not so simple – rumor being revealed. In all, our main couple finds their way ultimately to each other, though in varying degrees of speed and suspense.

Below we have provided you with the ARC first chapter of a short story, in which two ladies on the peripheral of London society discuss the latest gossip.  Gossip that then turns out to have a direct effect on Mr Darcy’s conduct at the Meryton assembly and a particular Bennet’s reception of him.

Please comment with your favorite part of the excerpt below by Feb. 25, 2020, to win one of 10 ARCs available!  Enjoy!

  • Aubrey Anderson & Marion Kay Hill

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The Pocket Book Series, Vol. 1: Rumors & Revelations

The Gelding

For the reader’s benefit: During the regency period a shade of green called pomona was considered amongst one of the most luxurious and expensive colours for gowns and accessories. This particular green was difficult to make at the time and was often done so with toxic and sometimes fatal consequences, though no one in this story will suffer from that malady. Pomona green is known today as apple green.

Chapter 1

 

Mwah, mwah! Leaning over for a third kiss to the cheek, the short brunette extended her neck a bit farther to make contact. As she realized the finish to her greeting was only to be met by air, she pulled back quickly and adjusted her pomona green shawl. The blonde in an all grey dress with delicate lace along the hems had retreated after the second cheek-to-cheek and was now sitting back. While fingering the lace, she was unable to disguise her smirk. Her tall and formal coiffeur bounced with the slight movement.

“Darling, a third kiss. Tsk, tsk. That is so passé.”

Sitting down in a what was meant to be a rehearsed and elegant fashion, the lady with the shawl could not keep back a whiny tone. She gestured towards her companion with her finger as she spoke.

Madame, you are supposed to be writing to me about these things. You know, I always insist. I want to look just as fashionable and worldly as you who reside part of the year in London. I rely on you for this!” As her voice grew louder, the brunette unconsciously pulled and tugged at the shawl, effectively bringing more attention to it.

Her preoccupation with positioning her green garment perfectly on her shoulders caused her friend’s eyes to flash in incredulity. The blonde’s derisive response caught in her throat though, as she coughed and took a sip of the tea that had just been placed in front of her.

“You know that could never come across as anything but enviable, Dear. That pomona scarf assures you all the pardons and supplies all the envious stares wherever you go.” Though her genteel accent was sharp, a ring of sarcasm was quite evident. She affected disinterest in continuing the subject by examining her polished rings, all the while covertly watching as the owner of the pomona garment finally draped it in a temporary resting spot.

The feigned humble smile from the brunette threw the blonde into a tizzy.

”And why the Madame? Have we not discussed this many times on paper and in person? I do not care to be called that by a friend as dear as you and would have hoped you would not ignore all my attempts to discontinue its use.”

The brunette sighed and looked at her tea for a second. ”I suppose I should make more of an effort. Old habits and all.”

Narrowing her eyes, the tall blonde studied the brunette. ”Thank you for that.  I do not think you have acquiesced so quickly in the past. This is a good sign.”

The brunette sat up straighter and blushed under the compliment.

”Though let me warn you, if you do not cease to use that childish nickname, I will have to retaliate with one of my own, Little Dear.

The blonde’s satisfied smile increased as the brunette’s blush grew deeper.  Who was bristling more over what was just said could not be determined by the onlookers within ear shot.

Almost as though it was scripted, this conversation in one form or another, repeated itself every time they met over the past twenty years. These old friends considered themselves fortunate to be able to now meet-up once a year in London. As maidens, the thought of going a month without seeing each other was painful. Yet as wives, schedules, families, the distance of residencies and other numerous domestic factors seem to always get in the way of regular meetings.

Like all dignified, long-distance relationships, they kept up a faithful vigil to each other in their letters, resulting in possibly a more confidant-type of relationship than they originally intended. This led to the infrequent, in-person meetings to be somewhat awkward in that they could not possibly discuss any of the overtly-personal and -exhibitionist confessionals.

These predictable performances were a comfort that would continue into perpetuity.

“When will you finally sell that to me? You know I look best in that colour.” This was not untrue, yet both women knew the heritage of the textile and that its owner’s sentimentality of it almost rivalled any admiration she received due to its rare and, incidentally, expensive shade of green. Very few had garments of this colour, and those who did usually could trace them back to the highest levels of the aristocracy.

“My Great Aunt Anges would never forgive me, and you know my beauty would dampen without it. I am not always up-to-date as you are with the fashions of London or Paris, and so need some means of staying a la mode.” Posturing herself demurely, the owner of the shawl looked down as she took another sip.

Raising one eyebrow and pursing her lips, the bearer of the pale grey gown studied her friend and breathed in a deep breath. The Little Dear had not aged over the years, a fact that had not gone unnoticed by either. She had always been a reputed beauty, and it appeared she would be so for some time.

Much to Madame’s chagrin, after each pregnancy, the Little Dear’s youthful beauty only seemed to exponentially increase as her face had grown fuller. They both knew that should she ever decide to part with the shawl, her beauty would still get the lion’s share of second glances wherever they met.

Though at times they would appear as friends of the most begrudging sort, they were genuinely dear to each other. Their superficial animosity and sparring stemmed from comfortability and faithfulness, rather than spite or jealousy. Both felt an instant connection at boarding school, as though they had found a long-lost sibling, though both had neither.

None of the two had ever said it, but both assumed that they would eventually live together, once again, after their husbands had departed. They would indirectly deny it and exclaim their respective destitutions should their husbands die to all of those who would hear it, but they each secretly looked forward to living together, similar to the days of finishing school.

“Now that our greetings are out of the way. Do you have anything new for me?”

Looking almost giddy with anticipation, the brunette stretched her back to appear as tall as her friend, and could not help but giggle before continuing. It was right down to business as usual. “You know you live here and have all the balls and dinners and entertainment, Sister. I am relegated to week-old papers with hoping no one smudged the society section before it was delivered. Why do you insist on withholding and teasing me so?”

Smoothing out her grey skirt and flicking away imaginary dust, the blonde cooed. “It is as it always is, it seems.” She looked up with a sparkle in her eye. “But you know, I do not mind sharing information about our local horses.”

“Oh, la! Is that how it fairs? Is it even that time of year already? Oh, do tell, do tell! Are they all here in London?” As she squealed and bounced with delight, the pomona shawl fell to the floor, causing the Little Dear to quickly pick it up with a concerned brow. Satisfied that it had not gotten dirty, she applied it to her shoulders with alacrity and brought her full attention back to her friend.

Several other patrons of the tea shop could not help but lean in or out to take another look at the ladies’ table. All such outside actions went unnoticed. The two ladies were now wholly absorbed into their topic, as was their way, and it would take a significant act to retrieve them.

“Yes, yes, yes. Of course, this time around we have a few stallions that are ripe for the chase. Unfortunately, there is already a jenny who has her eye on a poor stag. He has been around for a few seasons now, and finally seems to have found his purebred.” In unison, they cackled at the disparaging reference of a debutant. “But his mother is a complete mule, so they will need to bolt to the altar before she discovers their plans.”

The brunette sucked in her breath in astonishment as to the lengths these young people are willing to go to, to be together. Luckily, she did not have any children that would shame her family with an elopement.

Sitting back in a huff over the situation, the blonde lifted her teacup up for a second sip but put it back down to continue on about another. “And the fairer stallion is back from the war. He is intact and fully broken in. My own dear girl was to take a ride, but a filly that had caught him by the reins had waited for his return. Whether he knows she is sired by his own father or not, time will tell.”

Almost dropping her shawl again, the eager listener could not keep her mouth from following open in shock at her friend’s words. She finally remembered herself and issued her an admonishment. “That is only a rumour, you know this! I do recall, though, this is your favourite rumour to bolster. Leave her be, poor girl. We do not know this for a fact. They just happen to take after one another. But yes, it is probably true.” Not letting her friend continue that last point, she quickly asked, “Do you think his coat is as slick as it is rumoured?”

Clearing her throat, the Madame answered. “The rumour is that it is even better. He is absolutely sculpted. Those who know better say he is strong enough to go for miles upon miles upon miles.”

“Oh, my word.” Both women slouched back in their chairs and were momentarily breathless. One deigned to wipe her brow with her most precious possession, while the other pulled a handkerchief from a grey sleeve.

The brunette passed a little hiccup in excitement at having something to add. “I have seen him.”

“You have?”

“Yes, yesterday in the park. We had occasion to stop for the promenade, and there was a commotion. It brought to my attention the one who was attracting all the eyes of the park.”

“So, you see then that this filly is very lucky.” The blonde said, almost regretfully.

“Indeed.” Both ladies quickly finished their now-cold tea and signalled for a refill.

“I could only hope for as much for my daughters.” They waited a moment longer than was normal before signalling that they needed their refills for a second time. The conversation about the town’s horse had to be momentarily postponed. They did not want to be interrupted.

“You should have just ordered a pot.”

“I did not expect to be waiting on the pomona heiress for so long.”

They shared a knowing look as their cups were finally filled. The tea matron insisted on a new set of clean tea cups and saucers.  The disruption continues for another five minutes.  They knew better than not to wait.

Finally. “Any other news?”

“Not much. Although come to think of it, there is one.” The hope in her companion’s eyes was enough fuel.

She leaned in, and it was instantly mirrored. Her tone lowered, and the gleeful pair could barely contain their mutual excitement over such delicate information. An added bonus was that they both would now be privy to it and could discuss further in their letters. “But in a way, this is old news. His pedigree has come up many times before. Many, many times, but this one appears to be a confirmed colt, despite his age.”

While she spoke, she slowly nodded and turned her cheek to one side, almost acting as though she was aloof. She appeared as disinterested in the subject as she would be about the weather. All the while, stealthily surveying those around them to make sure there were not any eavesdroppers. A weighted pause followed when she was done discreetly looking around, and her companion nodded expectantly.

More time passed and the brunette finally exasperatedly responded, though only recalling a heartbeat later to lower her excited voice, attracting attention the other sought to avoid. “And? And? What is it that you are not saying?”

Leaning back and shaking her head, the pale grey gown was once again smoothed and now the tall, blonde coiffeur was patted. “You cannot be this obtuse. Are you doing this on purpose?”

Offended, the brunette leaned back and scoffed at the implication. “No.”

“You are not trying to provoke a rise out of me?”

“No, I would not do this on such an important subject. What is it that you have not said?”

“I did say it, I -” She stopped for a moment and then whispered. “You Fuss, he is a gelding.”

With one word, it was as though the tea room had gone silent. It had not though, that was just their perception. One was shocked at such a notion that any stag of the ton could actually be such a thing and the other that her friend was so uncomprehending.

“And, well, let me see. What was I to say? Oh, la! Well, and this has been verified?”

“It was a first-hand account.”

“Are we sure he is just not a bronco that wanders into the wrong stall from time to time?”

“Yes, the assurances are all there. Neither the mares nor any other horse will do it for him. It is said he will never be able to sire a foal and has given up on looking for a mate. The few ponies and their broodmares desperate for the connection still have all been toiled with by him and passed over.  The other stallions – those who can actually still prance – have seen his lukewarm interest and we’re scared off from even attempting a match with these beautiful fillies. In the end, it is now well known, he will leave it all to an heir, not of his own direct breed, it seems and so will not marry.”

“And this is someone we have spoken about before?”

“Yes, many times.”

“In this tea room?”

Breathing heavily through her teeth, the blonde could not keep from sounding terse. “Yes, of course, as we always have. Never in the letters. Never. He is only mentioned in these discussions.”

The brunette shook her head and gave out a little giggle. “Speaking of our conversations, could you ever imagine our daughters hearing us just now? I think my eldest would faint immediately.”

Almost coughing up her tea rather inelegantly, her beloved friend had to lift her napkin to make sure she contained all the liquid. “Honestly, if it was not for the ge-, his family.”  The Madame looked cautiously around, as she realized she was speaking too loudly for such a subject. ”Truthfully, if it were not for the fear that it would get back to that one member of his family in particular, then I would have already told mine.” She paused for a moment, looking at her tea with a small smile. She loved waiting for her friend’s usual astonishment at her more brazen admissions.

But it did not come. Several forced blinks went by, and the brunettes air of miscomprehension continued in a rapid succession of words. “Sylvie, I obviously do not know who you are referring to. Tell me at once.”

“Alright,” Sylvia hissed and checked again to make sure she had not pulled any pins free from her carefully sculpted blonde hairdo, “keep your voice down, I will tell you. I will need to go soon, though, as Gerald will be expecting me.”

****

Thank you, Aubrey and Marion, for being my guests today and sharing your upcoming release with us!

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