A few weeks ago, I offered an excerpt from my first novel, Courage Rises. The companion novel, Courage Requires, finds the Darcys together at Pemberley awaiting the birth of their first child. They are hosting the Fitzwilliam family and the Hawke sisters for Christmas, but what a strange holiday it has been. Sophia Hawke has a history with the Colonel, and he is pursuing her hand despite his father’s disapproval. At the same time, Evelyn Hawke seems determined to cause problems for her older sister. After a bit of trouble on the ice and seeing to everyone’s needs back at the house, William and Elizabeth steal a moment together.
Excerpt, Courage Requires
“Was it only a few days ago,” Darcy pondered, “that our most pressing concern was you going out to collect greenery?”
“Oh,” she replied with an arched eyebrow and steely resolve, “I will still be doing that.”
“Elizabeth,” he began, a growl beginning to build in his throat. He glared at his wife, only to see her lips begin to tremble. For the briefest of moments, he believed her about to cry, something he dreaded and yet had come to expect. Instead, as she struggled for composure, a choked laugh escaped and he shook his head at her, relieved and annoyed.
“Oh, William,” she said lovingly, leaning in to kiss his cheek. “Your face, dear. Like a great forbidding grizzly.”
“I knew I should not have taken you to the Menagerie,” he grumbled, and she laughed again. A deep breath helped clear her melancholy, and she moved to stand.
“Thank you, William,” she said with a chuckle, “I always feel better when I speak with you.”
“So I need not send the carriage to collect Jane?” he joked, offering his hand to assist her from the bed.
“Not yet,” she replied saucily, “but I shall require a substantial donation to the fund for expresses. I cannot be expected to wait even a week between letters.”
“Yes, my dear,” he said, sounding put upon, but ruining the effect with a warm smile. “I know you must speak with the maids, but please, after that, you must rest before dinner. Even I am tired and I have not your burden to carry.”
“I will,” she promised, for as many trips up and down the stairs she had been required to make today, she was already craving her bed.
Her husband peered at her suspiciously.
“What is it?” she asked.
“I am not one to question my good fortune,” he began, “but you are being rather agreeable. I cannot help but wonder what you have done with my wife?”
“You should take full advantage while you may,” she retorted tartly, with a tilt of her chin. Just as quickly she leaned against him, placing a hand over his heart, and said softly, “I am still heartily ashamed of myself for my actions yesterday, William.”
Darcy hesitated. “For going out when I asked you not to do so?” He wanted to be clear to which infraction she referred. Her mouth twisted in irritation and he quietly berated himself. Wrong again, apparently.
“No, I am not apologizing for going out of doors, William. I have had quite enough of being held prisoner inside, even in such a large and lovely home as Pemberley.”
He groaned inwardly. The conversation had been going so well. One question and they were returned to the quarrel. “Elizabeth. . .” he began
“No,” she said determinedly, wrapping her arms around him as she had in the hall. “I am sorry for thinking, even for a moment, that I could help on the ice. It was a completely selfish, foolish notion, to think that I must always be the best one to help. It lasted but a moment, but it was wrong. It delayed Sophia and I would have done nothing but make more work for everyone.” She placed a hand on her stomach and said wryly, “I am not particularly buoyant just now.”
Darcy took a quick look at the door. He wanted to speak with Waters to see how Miss Hawke fared, and he particularly wished to check on Richard. Still, there was something that he needed to explain to his enchanting, infuriating wife, and she had just provided him the best opportunity he was likely to have. He returned his gaze to her and took both of her hands in his.
“Elizabeth,” he said, swallowing hard and suddenly very serious, “when I heard that scream, I knew immediately it was you.” He grimaced before continuing. “I did not know where you were or what had happened, but I immediately thought the worst.” He took in a very deep breath and released it slowly, his head dropping. “I think that scream may have taken ten years from my life.” He met her apologetic gaze with his own steady, appraising one.
He moved one hand to her abdomen and said, “I could not bear it should anything happen to you or our child.” Elizabeth felt the warmth of his hand and placed hers over his, but did not try to look away. His voice was hoarse as he continued to speak, staring straight into her eyes, “Everything I need most in the world stands before me.”
His other hand came up to cup her cheek before he said, earnestly, “I may appear overbearing to you, my love, and I daresay I am, but please, I beg of you,” his eyes remained locked with hers, and in them she saw vulnerability, pain, “have mercy.”
Courage Requires, and the first book in the series, Courage Rises, are available in ebook and paperback versions at Amazon.
So, it occurs to me that I haven't posted anything about my first two books, Courage Rises and Courage Requires in quite awhile. I've been busy working on Headstrong, which is turning into quite a long project, and plotting out the stand-alone novel that will follow it. Headstrong is a modern JAFF with an E&D pairing, and you can follow the draft (it will be revised for publication this spring) at A Happy Assembly. The regency story that will follow it is still in the planning stages.
In the meantime, please take a look at the Courage series (really a pair of books with a strong CF presence, but which is also E&D-centric).
Description: Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, recently returned from the battlefields of Spain, calls on his cousin Darcy to help him fulfill a troublesome debt of honor. In her husband's absence, Elizabeth is faced with a crisis at Pemberley, and she must make a dangerous decision to keep everyone alive.
Excerpt from Courage Rises:
Elizabeth took her candle to the small writing table she had asked be placed in Georgiana’s room. Sliding one sheet of paper to her, she propped Fitzwilliam’s miniature up before her and began to write.
As I cannot know when I should expect to see you, I will write what I wish you knew, to explain what I intend to do and why I have done it. It is a relief to the press of my thoughts to release them here, where my doubts can cause no mischief. I miss you terribly and only wish I could speak with you and ask your advice.
Georgiana is very ill. Her fever is high, and her sleep is broken. She is attended by Mrs. Reynolds and myself. There is still no word from Mr. Waters, and I fear that he may have been taken ill as well. John has returned from town with no news of him, but can tell us that the illness has not spread to Lambton. Of course, the townspeople now know they should not directly approach Pemberley until we send word, and that is some comfort.
As to Pemberley itself, the ill are spread all about the estate. I know that you would tell me to send food and medicine out to the afflicted, my dear, but the truth is that there are not enough of us well to tend to those who are not.
I have had to make a decision, William, one which I daresay will not please you but that I hope you will come to accept. In the morning, if there is a break in the rain, we will strip the ballroom down, set up cots, and make it our sickroom. We will bring the sick to us so that we may offer proper care to each patient. Georgiana will remain upstairs and the others downstairs, and in this way I may be able to better manage both our resources and their care. I pray that I will soon be joined in this task by Mr. Waters.
I know that this exposes us, William, and I have struggled, knowing you would not have me do such a thing, but it is certain that we have already been exposed. We must have been, or Georgiana would not be ill. John takes your position admirably and tells me with his stoic manner and disapproving looks that this is not something a proper Mistress of Pemberley should undertake. He believes that it should be left to the families to do the nursing and that this is what you would wish. You know your stubborn wife and will not fault him for my actions, indeed, when you return you must thank him for taking your part. He has seen I am determined to do this with or without his help, and has promised to assist me if only to keep me safe, an office it is clear you have asked him to perform.
Dearest, I am convinced that while this may not be the proper course it is yet the correct one. The staff at Pemberley may not be our blood, but they are both our family and my responsibility.
If we can care for those who are now ill, I hope that no one else will be stricken. If I am wrong, I can only beg your forgiveness.
Your devoted Elizabeth