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British Regency story excerpt from “Death of a Bachelor” by Caitlin Williams
She came towards him in a fury. Unsure of what she was about to do, he caught hold of her, trapped her within his embrace, and kissed her before she could properly tell him off. She gasped against his mouth, gave in for the briefest of moments, before pulling back as far as his arms would let her.
“And perhaps we would have had April showers so heavy they would have washed the bridges out, and still we might have been trapped here. What do you say to that, sir?”
“What I say, madam, is that you always seem to have an answer for everything. But I love you for it. Forgive me, Elizabeth. I want you to always have the best of everything, every comfort. Not this awful room, not here. It cannot be what you wished for.”
She gave a little shake of her head. “Wishes are hopes that drift in the sky. You ought to know your wife has her feet planted firmly on the ground. And this evening, I am warm, safe, healthy, and longing for you. I might be innocent, as yet, about many things, but whatever you feel and need, I am certain I feel and need it also.”
Outside in the storm, he had resolved to wait for her—to wait until London—but she was too close and the room warm enough to melt his determination. Any lingering doubts were done away altogether when she put a hand about his neck and brought his mouth down to hers again, a kiss he returned feverishly. And then his lips began to travel everywhere, her eyelids, the tip of her nose, across her smooth cheek, to her ear, and then down to her neck—where every kiss and brush of her skin with his lips produced a breathless gasp from her. He knew only half of what he did. He reminded himself to go slowly, yet his hands moved quickly. There were clothes, and then somehow, there were far less clothes.
American Contemporary excerpt from “Hot for Teacher” by Sara Angelini
“You know, we’ve known each other for a couple of months now, and I’ve been wanting to ask you . . . that is . . .” For probably the first time in my life, I found myself at a loss for words. She looked up at me, the moonlight limning her cheek in silver, thick lashes brushing against her cheeks as she closed her eyes. A sigh slipped from her lips, and I found myself drawn like a compass needle to North. My lips brushed hers and my eyelids fell shut.
A scant second later, the spell was broken by her gasp. Cold air rushed between us as she took a step back.
“What the hell?!” she exclaimed, her brow furrowed in anger. “What is it with you guys? Is it hereditary for you to prey on women?”
“I don’t understand.” I stammered, utterly confused.
“First George has all the subtlety of an octopus on speed, then you . . .” She ripped off my jacket and balled it up before shoving it furiously into my chest. “Unbelievable!” She stormed off, and I hurried to follow her.
“Wait! Elizabeth!” She held one hand up to me without looking over her shoulder and shook her head, the universal signal for “get lost.” I watched, stunned and helpless, as she strode back into the gymnasium.
Well, that went well. I can’t wait for the harassment claim to show up on my desk.
British Regency story excerpt from “If Only a Dream” by Joana Starnes
The church filled with low murmurs interspersed with Collins’s pompously declamatory tones. A sigh escaped him, and it was only then that Darcy noted he was intently listening to pick out hers. He scowled once more at his shocking folly and belatedly added the rumble of his own voice to the general chorus—only to see her suddenly start at the distinct addition. His chest tightened. There was no way of knowing why the sound of his voice had made her jump, but now that his eyes had come to be fixed on the back of her neck, he could not force himself to look away. Head bowed in prayer as instructed, she was perfectly still—and the entire world seemed to grow still around them as he sat staring like the most pitifully besotted mooncalf. At least that was what reason claimed—the last shreds of reason growing quieter by the minute; drowned out, along with the real voices all around him. He could not even hear hers any longer. It might have been subsumed into the rushing sound faintly ringing in his ears, much like the so-called murmur of the ocean they had once told him as a boy that he could hear in a conch shell. Or perhaps she had ceased praying to puzzle over his reasons to grow silent. A very different sort of prayer—most certainly not for the sick and dying—rose within him as his gaze remained fixed on the delicate wisp of hair curling at her nape, just underneath her ear. Chestnut brown with auburn tints, in the sharpest contrast to the creamy skin around it. Silky-soft skin, no doubt, warm to the touch. Warm under searching lips dropping light kisses in a caressing trail to the delicate lobe of that perfectly shaped ear … along her jaw line to her chin, to find her full mouth and lose himself into her intoxicating sweetness. The perfect loveliness of her.
His chest ached and his senses reeled. And before he could resume some tenuous control over the latter and ask himself what on Earth he was doing, allowing himself to sink into this insanity—in a church, moreover!—her hand shot up to brush over the square inch of creamy skin and the enticing little curl. It was as if she could feel his burning gaze, as if it had already left a tangible mark there. She made an instinctive move to turn but instantly suppressed it, and sense finally gained the upper hand enough to make him tear his eyes away. Darcy leaned back, releasing a long breath into an incautiously loud rush; far too loud, upon reflection. To his renewed mortification, her shoulders tensed at the sudden sound, and so he was compelled to suppress the heavy sigh of exasperation at all the ways he seemed to find to make himself conspicuous.
Paranormal story excerpt from “The Beast of Pemberley” by Melanie Stanford
I stood at the altar, stiff and upright. Tense. Anxious. Nervous. Excitement overpowering the throbbing from my scars. The clergyman in front of me avoided my face. I had a mask on, but still he would not look at me. The elaborately knotted cravat that Cogsworth insisted upon for my wedding day felt tight, and I tugged at it.
The chapel on Pemberley’s estate had been unused since my mother died but had been aired and thoroughly cleaned. Cogsworth had helped me into my wedding coat, and I fitted the mask over my face myself, the stiff black leather covering everything but my eyes and mouth. I only glanced in the mirror to make sure it was straight, but that was enough for the flash of anger and self-loathing to tumble through me. Handsome no longer. But better the mask than the scars.
The doors opened, and a sharp wind blew in, piercing the stillness. I turned . . . and there she was.
Alone—because I made it so. And brave. I did not want anyone else gawking at the man in the mask with scars snaking from his coat sleeves.
Her gown was white lace adorned with flowers. The bodice was tight, enhancing the swell of her breasts, a golden cross resting on her neck. The skirt fanned out, lightly brushing the floor as she walked. Her hair was arranged with baby’s breath and coiled into a floral crown. She carried a bouquet of borage and dahlias in her hands. For courage and dignity?
Her slippered feet barely made a sound as she made her way down the short aisle—leaving silence in its wake. The only guests in the pews were my servants. She would not look at me.
I could not take my eyes off her. The parson spoke, but I heard nothing. She stared blankly ahead when she recited the words betrothing herself to me. I wondered how she could say the words she so evidently could not mean. Even when she was forced to face me as the marriage ribbon was tied around our hands, she would not meet my eyes. Her hand was warm in mine, soft against my scars. Yet, she did not flinch at the sight, and I adored her even more for that.
The ceremony ended. My servants rose with a smattering of applause. Elizabeth yanked her hand from mine, the ribbon stinging against my wrist, and she fled the chapel.
“Attend her,” I murmured to Mrs. Reynolds. The servants left, and I was alone. Married.
“You must allow me to tell you...”
For over two hundred years, Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy has captivated readers’ imaginations as the ultimate catch. Rich. Powerful. Noble. Handsome. And yet, as Miss Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” is established through Elizabeth Bennet’s fine eyes, how are we to know his mind? How does Darcy progress from “She is tolerable: but not handsome enough to tempt me” to “I thought only of you”?
In this romance anthology, fifteen Austenesque authors assemble to sketch Darcy’s character through a series of re-imaginings, set in the Regency through contemporary times—from faithful narratives to the fanciful. Herein “The Darcy Monologues”, the man himself reveals his intimate thoughts, his passionate dreams, and his journey to love—all told with a previously concealed wit and enduring charm.
Stories by: Susan Adriani * Sara Angelini * J. Marie Croft * Karen M Cox * Jan Hahn * Jenetta James * Lory Lilian * KaraLynne Mackrory * Beau North * Ruth Phillips Oakland * Natalie Richards * Sophia Rose * Joana Starnes * Melanie Stanford * Caitlin Williams