Blurb: What if Mr. Bennet went missing and the Bennet women had to leave Longbourn? In this intriguing refashioning of Jane Austen’s classic, Mr. Darcy meets a melancholic but spirited Elizabeth Bennet who has vowed to remain a spinster until she finds her father.
Debauchery at a masquerade forces the couple to marry. Will Elizabeth resent Mr. Darcy’s arrogance, which forced her to break her vow? Will she find her father, with his help?
This sexy and inventive Pride and Prejudice what-if story, set just after the Napoleonic Wars, takes the perennial favorite in a new direction with captivating plot twists and passionate romance.
The music had started again, and people seemed to be dancing awkwardly. They all seemed heavy on their feet, unable to move straight. Many of them were out of time with the music and bumped into each other often. But they were all very jolly about the whole thing. Laughter and excuses filled the air.
I enjoyed watching the folly of the dancers. While I hummed to the music and smiled at the clumsy couples, I lost track of where I was heading and bumped into a man.
“I am so sorry.” I apologized. But my voice died away upon seeing that it was that ungentlemanly Mr. Darcy. “You! I thought you said you were leaving this dissolute ball.”
“Ah, sultry lips.” He stared at me for a moment and murmured, “You overheard what I said.” His hands were holding my arms, trying to steady me.
“It was hard not to, Mr. Darcy.” I glared at him, silently demanding that he release me. “You were like a town crier, telling the world that I might well be ancient and penniless.”
“How did you know my name?” he asked, and frowned, moving closer to me because of the crowd.
“Mr. Bingley spoke it.”
He sighed and offered me a shallow bow. “Mr. Darcy of Pemberley. And you, madam?”
“The Green Serpent.”
He stiffened. “I beg your pardon?”
“This is a masquerade ball. We are supposed to stay unknown to each other.”
“But you know my name.”
“Ah, but I did not want to know your name. You and your friend forced it on me.”
“Nevertheless, now that you know it, out of courtesy should you not honour me with your name?”
“You were not very civil, a few moments ago.”
“Perhaps I spoke too close to the truth and hurt your pride.”
“It is not a sin to have neither wealth nor youth. But berating others without knowing their characters is sinful indeed.”
I saw his lips tighten, then curl up slightly.
“Very well, I admit it – I was in the wrong, Miss Green Serpent. I declare myself delighted to make your acquaintance. May I have the honour of this dance?”
I looked around. The dance floor was packed. Most of the people dancing were still doing so very clumsily.
“Thank you, but I do not want to dance....”
He seemed unhappy with my answer and cut me off before I could finish the sentence.
“Because you do not know how to dance?”
I boiled with anger upon hearing his remark. “No, because I have no time for men who do not have the patience to listen to women.” I swirled around, intending to leave this exasperating man. But the movement was too rapid, and it left me feeling light-headed.
Mr. Darcy wrapped his arms around my waist to steady me.
“You prefer another kind of activity?” he whispered close to my ear, his gaze fixing on some couples by the windows, who were kissing rather passionately.
“My lord, the unruly behaviour has started!”
“Yes indeed.” He blew a gentle breath into my ear. “Let us find a quiet corner, too.”
I gasped in surprise. “I shall do no such thing!” But my body was not under my command, for it let him guide me forward. “Unhand me this instant!” I hissed.
He stared down at me intently. “I just want to have some intelligent conversation, seeing that I cannot leave the ball.”
“You have tried?”
He nodded. “All of the doors are locked. I am trapped unless I take to jumping out of a window.”
We walked for a few moments, but it seemed every corner was occupied by people. I felt hotter and hotter upon seeing couples who were not just kissing but actually caressing each other, grasping their partner’s chest or bottom.
“Do you not feel strange?” I asked.
“Only slightly.” He shook his head. “Did you drink a lot of wine?”
“No, just a few sips during the second toast.”
“The wine had the smell of fennel and other herbs. I took only a sip or two before I recognized the strange taste. I think the Colonel put the herbs in to make us more amorous. I have heard of such cases happening. It would affect women more if they are not used to strong wine.”
“In what way?”
“Hot, tipsy and…” His gaze travelled down my body.
I tilted my head and dared him to continue.
“And their bos…their bodies will feel an itch.”
Now that he mentioned it, my bosom did feel somewhat strange. Indeed, I was startled to feel a flush of the heat generating from there and travelling up to my cheeks and down my legs.
“If you had not known my name, I would have offered to relieve your suffering.” He smiled.
My eyes widened, imagining his hands on my body. “Rake!” I shook my head and struggled to get away from him.
“Steady. You will be in great danger if I leave you now.”
“Other men will not behave in as gentlemanly a manner as I do.”
“You admit that you only do so because your identity is known.” I managed to shake away his hands and leaned on the wall for support. “Just the sort of pretentious behaviour I would expect of a wealthy man.”
The smile was wiped from his face. He tightened his lips, drew in a deep breath and stepped towards me. “Disguise of every sort is my abhorrence. But if you want to sample some rakish behaviour, to fulfil your expectation, I am most willing to oblige.”
He raised his right hand, turned it around, and then used his knuckles to brush the skin near my neck.
His hand was hot and hard, the skin of it not as smooth as my own. His eyes gazed at that particular spot, seemingly concentrating on finding a sensitive nerve.
I gulped in a deep breath, unwittingly pushing my chest higher, causing it to strain against the neckline of the dress.
He found the vein and traced his knuckles down, following the curve of the décolleté. Slowly. Inch by inch. Second by second.
As his skin continued to graze mine, I began to sweat. A drop of sweat formed and slowly drifted down from the base of my throat into the valley of my cleavage.
The glittering liquid drew his attention. His hand detoured to the left, burning a hot trail on the upper slope of my chest.
When he reached the valley, he turned his hand once again and used the tip of his finger to push the droplet of sweat up back, in slow reverse, second by second, inch by inch, until he reached the base of my throat.
Then he brought his fingertip to his mouth and suckled it, closing his eyes as he savoured the taste.
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