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Posts Tagged ‘gaslighting & gallantry’

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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