Writers have a saying, ‘You have to kill your darlings’, which means stuff gets cut in the editing process. It’s tough, but it has to be done.
Scenes get cut for number of different reasons. This one, like the first in this series, suffered the axe when I applied the ‘does it make a difference’ test. In other words, if I cut this scene does it make any difference in the story? In this case the answer was no, it made absolutely impact at all, and it also slowed down the pace, so out it went. Even so, I love this little interaction between Darcy and Fitzwilliam and hope you will too. It is set just before the wedding.
Late that night, after a cozy family dinner and evening spent soundly beating Darcy in commerce played with confits, Fitzwilliam wandered into Darcy’s study. The low fire burning in the fireplace matched the one burning within him. Given his druthers, he would have gone to his betrothed tonight—really what was a few days when the promise had been offered and accepted?
For another woman, most other women, it would have been nothing, but to her—he could not bring himself to even ask. Losing Michaels less than a week before they were to wed was too fresh. Had Michaels been a more passionate man, he might have left her with child and without a husband to claim the child. Yes, the risk was small—Fitzwilliam had no intention of dying in the next few days. But then, neither had Michaels.
Deep orange firelight, accented with a faint scent of wood smoke, painted the chairs and small table immediately in front of the fireplace. With no candles lit, the rest of the room was bathed in a quiet sort of darkness, the kind that bespoke rest, not ambush. Shadows of the desk, bookcases, and cabinets faded into the quietude, safe to ignore for the present.
Darcy peeked around the side of his wingback and waved him in, pouring a second glass of brandy and setting it on the table between the two chairs.
As gracious an invitation as one ever got from Darcy. He sauntered in and accepted both the seat and the drink.
“You are not fooling anyone, you know.” Darcy propped his feet on a low stool and sipped his drink.
Lovely. What he did not need was a lecture. He grumbled, leaning back into the worn leather upholstery that seemed to know exactly how to conform itself to his shape.
“I understand, though, and it speaks a great deal in support of all you have said about your affection for Mary.” Darcy drew a sip of brandy.
“I am glad I meet your approval.” Fitzwilliam resisted the urge to toss back the entire glass at once. Besides, it was the sort of brandy that deserved to be savored, not guzzled.
“I overheard Elizabeth discussing a call upon Mrs. Tennington tomorrow. The widow might make an excellent companion for our aunt.”
“I did not come here to obtain your approval for anything. This is quite unlike you, and it is making me decidedly uncomfortable.”
“Then let me remedy that immediately.” Darcy turned to face him, elbow digging into the wingback’s arm. “There is one matter that you have not attended to that I believe you must before you can marry. In fact, I utterly insist upon it.”
“You mean to interfere with our wedding?”
“I will, to protect my sister Mary.”
“You have no settlement papers. She should not—she will not—marry you without them.”
“Oh, bloody hell.” Fitzwilliam ground the heels of his hands into his eyes.
“I thought you might agree. Granted she, like Elizabeth, has few real assets to bring into the marriage. However, you must make provision for her and any future children—”
“Damn you for being right. How long is that going to take? I recall my sister’s settlement took months to reach.”
“She brought a fortune into the marriage. There was a great deal to negotiate—gifts from both families, her pin money, the settlements upon their children. My own settlement for Elizabeth was far simpler to create. In some ways, it is a blessing that Mary is not so encumbered.”
“But what about Bennet? I cannot imagine he—”
“During the affair with Lydia, I was empowered by him to accept a marriage settlement on his behalf. I had the foresight—or I suppose one could argue, the arrogance—to word that document in such a way that it included all the unmarried sisters, not just Lydia.”
That was just like Darcy. “You expected to find husbands for them all?”
“No, I simply dislike the man enough that I wanted to remove the possibility of dealing with him on the matter again. So, you do not need to satisfy Bennet with the settlement.” He looked so smug, so very proud of himself. So annoying.
“But I need to satisfy you.”
“I like to think I am more reasonable. I took the liberty of informing my solicitor that we would be calling upon him in the morning and that we need the job done as quickly as possible.”
“That is to say, you have offered him a substantial bonus for doing the job with alacrity? You know, I do not want charity from you.” A mouthful of brandy, potent and just a bit sharp, kept the rest of Fitzwilliam’s thoughts unsaid.
“Consider it a wedding gift. Or would you rather wait weeks, instead of days?”
“Days? How much are you paying him?”
“Keep in mind, this is for my benefit as well. If the worst were to happen and she were left without marriage articles, to whom do you think her upkeep would fall?”
“You take too much upon yourself.”
“Perhaps, but I cannot change my ways.” Darcy settled back into his chair and stared into the fireplace.
“Do you think that I have?”
That was a chilling indictment.
Darcy swirled the brandy in its glass, almost but not quite spilling it over the edge. “But, I am not so certain I have really understood what your ways were. You put up an excellent front, but there is far more beneath than I think I understood.”
“Elizabeth told you that.”
“Even if she did, I am convinced she is right.” Darcy did not say it, and probably would not. But he did not have to. His posture, his tone conceded his approval as well.
A warm, fuzzy feeling gathered in his chest. Gah! What a sentimental fool he was! He did not need anyone’s approval, even Darcy’s.
But somehow, it was pleasing to have it.
He settled back into the soft leather and sipped his brandy in companionable, brotherly silence.
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