I am pleased to have Pamela Lynne with me today. I have been following her and the launch of Dearest Friends on Facebook. Not only has Ms. Lynne given Leatherbound Reviews readers a heartwarming excerpt but she is also providing a copy of Dearest Friends for giveaway! See below for more info.
Dearest Friends is a love story. Of course it is a love story; that is what draws us all to JAFF, right? The experience shared by our dear couple is timeless and resonates with us two centuries later. Dearest Friends adds a different twist to the tale. In spite of Darcy’s reluctance and Elizabeth’s willfulness, we readers knew their attraction to each other in Hertfordshire. What if something happened that hurt them both irreparably, but drew them together for solace and support? Let’s watch as Darcy and Elizabeth discuss their shared grief.
Elizabeth sat on the window seat in her uncle’s piano room. She had practiced for what seemed like hours and was now enjoying a quiet contemplation of the previous days with her new friend. Georgiana was such a sweet girl, with charm and wit beyond her years. Elizabeth wondered if others knew this about her or if, like her brother, she kept the more tender parts of herself private. Whatever the answer, she was grateful to now have two friends in the city where she had previously felt so alone.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a carriage coming to a stop outside the house.
“Fitzwilliam!” she exclaimed in surprise.
She had not expected him for another hour. She quickly rose to adjust her gown and make sure her hair was in place. She had just finished her ministrations when Darcy was shown into the room.
Darcy bowed and greeted Elizabeth civilly, then, looking around the room, noticed she was alone. He smiled and walked toward her, reaching her in two long steps. He took her hands, kissing one then the other. He bent down and captured her lips in a soft and gentle kiss, keeping it light, not knowing how long they would be left to themselves.
“You find me quite alone this morning, Fitzwilliam,” Elizabeth sighed as she settled into his embrace.
“Forgive me, I would not wish to intrude on your privacy,” he said into her neck.
“For you, sir, it is never an intrusion. I will welcome your presence at any time.”
“That is good to know, my girl, for I would wish to never leave your side were it at all possible.”
He could no longer keep his hands still as they began to caress her back, up and down in long strokes, nearly reaching her bottom before they came up again. Elizabeth let out a contented sigh then looked up at him.
He laid his forehead on hers and asked, “Where is your aunt?”
“She is upstairs. She will not be coming with us today. Her eldest, Phillip, developed a fever in the night and she does not want to leave him.”
Darcy drew back slightly and looked at her with concern. He laid his hand alternately on her forehead and cheek and asked, “It is not catching is it? It will not do to have you ill, Elizabeth.”
She was amused by his actions and she clasped his hands in hers in order to still them.
“If it is catching then your concern would be better placed with my aunt for she is the one nursing him, not I.” She could tell he was not satisfied with her answer. “Truly, I am in little danger of succumbing to my cousin’s trifling cold. My aunt is not even very concerned, but Philip is at an age where he wants little attention from his mother, so she welcomes the opportunity to lavish him with it whenever she can.”
The look on his face told her that he was not listening, but planning her escape from the disease infested surroundings that were sure to kill her if he did not intervene.
“Hmm? Perhaps you should stay with us until this fever has run its course. We cannot be too careful with your health.”
“You are not listening to me. It is merely a cold.”
“Elizabeth, your aunt has been very generous by allowing us time alone, but she will not allow me into your chamber to care for you if you are ill and I do not trust. . .”
His protest was silenced by Elizabeth’s kiss. Her ardent attentions successfully cleared his mind of all thoughts of sweeping her away from sudden death.
“You beautiful, obstinate man,” she said as she held his face in her hands. “I promise, if I become ill, I will be a most troublesome patient and throw myself into the biggest snit, they will have no choice other than to let you see me, if only to calm my poor nerves. Now, are you going to take me to your house? I am sure your sister is waiting for us.”
Darcy’s brow furrowed and he took her hand, leading her to the couch where he sat, then pulled her into his lap.
“Let us sit and talk for a while. It is unlikely we will have another opportunity to be alone this afternoon.” He kissed her nose and gave her a tender smile. Her heart warmed at the sight and she lightly traced the outline of that smile, causing it to grow further.
“I am still growing accustomed to your smile, Mr. Darcy. I do not believe I saw it once the entire time you were in Hertfordshire. You seem so different now.”
“Have you forgotten whose company I was in that entire time? In addition, it was right after the whole Ramsgate affair. My sister nearly ruined herself and I had to spend weeks under the same roof as Caroline Bingley. You try smiling under those circumstances.”
Elizabeth giggled and stroked his face. “You have my sympathies, sir.”
“Do you realize how different you are now?”
Elizabeth shook her head. “How so?”
“You seem much more confident, which is strange considering all you have lost. You hold your chin up with pride instead of defiance. Your wit, though as sharp as ever, is less cutting and you no longer use it as a shield. I believe being around people who truly love you has allowed the real Elizabeth to shine through. You were never meant for Longbourn, my love, and you were right to flee. I am glad I was here to find you when you did.”
Elizabeth kissed him as tears rolled down her cheeks. “And you said I was too observant. How is it you know me so well?”
“Because I did not laugh and dance and make merry in Hertfordshire. I left Bingley to play that part while I watched you. I saw everything, Elizabeth, even things no one else saw, like your brief flashes of hurt and shame, so carefully hidden under your humor. And I saw the lightening quick acknowledgment of Jane and your father’s true selves.
“You knew, Elizabeth. You knew who they were, but you did not want to see it because you loved them so; your father because he was your hero and Jane because she was your lifelong companion. I know because I experienced the same with my own father and Wickham.”
“My father was a good man, but there are things about him I struggled to understand. One of those was his relationship with Wickham. His father was Pemberley’s steward and for a time he managed it practically on his own. When my mother died, Father just disappeared for a while. He was there physically, but he was broken on the inside. He recovered enough to eventually return to estate and family duties, but he was never quite the same.
“I understood the loyalty he felt to the Wickhams, but I did not understand why he chose the younger as a companion as he grew older. I was hurt, I will admit, but I realize now that it was because he had no deep ties to Wickham. He was easy, just as Bingley was for me. Of course, he had no idea what kind of man he truly was. I resisted seeing it myself until we were at Cambridge together. So you see, you and I are much the same.”
Elizabeth nodded and Darcy dried her tears with his fingertips. “Do not cry, beloved,” he said while still caressing her face. “We were both betrayed by the ones we considered our dearest friends. We have been hurt and we have been alone, but that is all behind us and we are better for our trials. We have each other now.”
Elizabeth’s throat tightened as her deepening need for him began to overwhelm her. She once again nodded and then clung to him as if her life depended on the connection that grew stronger with every touch. Her heart shattered with love for this man and she wondered how she had ever managed to live without his genuine care and understanding.
Dearest Friends is now available at Amazon. You can connect with Pamela on Facebook and Twitter.
Pamela Lynne is generously giving away ONE (1) paperback or e-book (winner's choice) copy of Dearest Friends to one lucky commenter.
Giveaway is open internationally.
To enter, please leave a comment for Pamela Lynne in the comment section.
Note: You must leave a Twitter handle or email address so that I know how to contact the winner.
Giveaway ends Monday, November 24!
Winner will be announced Tuesday, November 25!
Best of luck! :)