Chapters 9-12 of Darcy & Lizzy: A Modern Pride and Prejudice Romance

DarcyandLizzyAnd the story continues!

I am having a blast writing this Lizzy and Darcy and drawing on their true characters but putting my own spin on them.

Lizzy is a romantic, witty, and strong in her prejudices. Darcy falls for Lizzy’s outer beauty but regrets butting heads with her.

Here you go….

Chapter 9

Darcy sat her down and sent Greta for the smelling salts. Elizabeth gazed into his eyes, her own glassed over. He knelt beside her, his voice urgent.

“Lizzy, Lizzy!”

Greta returned with the vial and Darcy opened it hastily wafting the pungent odor under her nose.

Lizzy coughed and sobbed at the same time.

“Take me to the hospital, Darcy. Daddy needs me.”

Darcy bundled her into his coat and carried her to the car. Lizzy sat trembling, not from a chill, nor from the strength of Darcy’s strong arms as they placed her in his car.

Her mother had said her father was in the hospital. An ambulance had come to the house after he collapsed in the parlor. She knew he was under stress, he couldn’t hide that from her not after all their years of working so closely.

This had to be why he had searched Darcy out for that deal. He was ill and hadn’t told any of them, especially not her. Lizzy placed a hand over her heart and stifled another sob. She must gain control before they arrived at the hospital. Her sisters and her mother would be the ones who needed her bravado.

Darcy drove quickly to the Meryton Regional Medical Center, speaking to Lizzy in a hushed tone, hoping to calm her fears and lower her stress before she was surrounded by her family.

Jane! Elizabeth wondered what corner of the globe she had gone to and could not recall with her mind scattered by her father’s emergency. A text would work, she thought as her mind returned to the things she could control.

“Darcy, I’m grateful for your assistance and so very sorry about our dinner. For what it’s worth, I would have let you see the sun rise on these messy curls.”

He smiled gently and took her hand as he parked the car.

“We’ve a few hours before sunrise Lizzy and I don’t plan on leaving you.”

Lizzy sighed and took his hand again as he helped her from the car. His strong arms wrapped her gently and held her firmly against him. His motives were not lust and passion, only comfort and caring.

Lizzy meant more to him now in the few days they had become reacquainted than she ever had in their college days. He was ashamed of how badly he’d treated her then and resolved to right the wrongs no matter how long it might take.

They entered the cold, sterile atmosphere of the hospital and Lizzy was seized upon by her mother and sisters.

“Mother, has anyone contacted Jane?”

Mrs. Bennet shook her head in confusion and Mr. Darcy took her arm to lead her to a seat. Lizzy pulled out her phone and sent a text hoping Jane might see it wherever she was at the moment. A nurse appeared at the desk and Lizzy advanced to the counter.

“How is Mr. Bennet? I am his daughter and would like to see him when I may.”

The nurse took her name and led her immediately to his room. Lizzy whispered her thanks in a hushed tone and stood by the door after the nurse had gone.

Her father lay pale and motionless against the pristine white sheets of the hospital bed and Lizzy felt dread squeeze her heart. The color in his cheeks was gone as was the ready smile he aways wore.

She approached him quietly, her heart skipping a few beats.

“Daddy,” she whispered as she took his limp hand. It was warm and she thought he tightened his grip but his eyes remained closed.

A doctor entered the room and came to stand beside her. He was the chief of staff and a man who’d gone fishing with her father for as long as she could remember.

“Otis, Dr. Moore, how is he? Don’t spare me, you know I don’t like a half-told truth.”

Dr. Moore took her arm.

“Lizzy, he’s had a heart attack and he’s wiped out. I don’t expect he’ll awaken tonight. Have your mother and sisters go home. We’ll know more tomorrow.”

Lizzy nodded as he left the room and sat in the chair by her father’s bed. She kept the tremor from her voice and blinked tears away.

“Daddy, you should have told me you needed rest. I could’ve  handled the clinic alone. I will. I won’t miss a beat, I promise.”

Darcy entered quietly and placed his hands on her shoulders.

“You won’t be alone, Lizzy.”

Lizzy’s emotions ranged from hope to worry in dizzying fashion and she was grateful, for once, her father had chosen Darcy as his partner.

She rose from her seat and leaned against Darcy’s chest.

“I have to send my family home. Mother will want to sit with him tomorrow while I’m at the clinic.”

Darcy took her hand and placed a light kiss on her wrist.

“Let’s get them moving and then I’ll stay with you until your mother returns in the morning.”

In the waiting room, her sisters and mother were arguing over something trivial and Lizzy fought to keep her voice down.

“Doc Moore says daddy won’t come around tonight and wanted me to send you all home. I’ve messaged Jane and she’ll come home as soon as she can, I’m sure.”

Mrs. Bennet started to argue with her but Lizzy nodded at Mary and went to her mother’s side. Mary grabbed the keys from Lydia and swept through the waiting room doors like a pro. Mary and Lizzy weren’t the closest in the group of sisters but they were more than a match for their younger sisters.

Darcy joined Lizzy and held out his arm to Mrs. Bennet, his most charming smile causing her to stand eagerly.

“Come, Mrs. Bennet. Lizzy is right. Mr. Bennet will need you in the morning while Lizzy keeps the clinic running smoothly.”

Lizzy hid her surprise at her mother’s acquiescence and followed behind the unlikely pair as they left the waiting room. Kitty and Lydia were in the back seat glaring at Mary. Darcy helped their mother into the passenger seat and Lizzy went around the car to speak with Mary.

“Keep those keys. You are the driver while daddy is in the hospital.”

Lydia and Kitty protested loudly from the back seat but Lizzy turned her patented death stare on the both of them.

“Mary has to be at work after bringing mother to the hospital in the morning. If you don’t like it, you can both ride the school bus.”

Lizzy joined Darcy on the sidewalk as Mary backed carefully from her spot and drove slowly away. They could hear Kitty and Lydia as the car pulled onto the street.

“I hate to say it, but your family is overwhelming.”

Lizzy laughed as they walked back toward the hospital entrance.

“I say it at least once a day Darcy.”

He stopped and Lizzy turned, her heart jumping into her throat as he raised one hand and brushed at the curls that lay loose on her neck.

“Sweet Lizzy, you aren’t alone and I’ll see to it your father gets the best of care.”

He tucked her arm into his and walked slowly with her into the hospital.

“Let’s sit with your him and try to sleep a bit. In a few hours we’ll both be hard at work.”

He pulled a chair next to hers when they entered her father’s room and a nurse brought a blanket for them to share.

Lizzy found herself sitting in his lap wrapped in his arms under the blanket, her legs stretched out over the low chair arms. She laid her head against his chest and was soon drowsy, drifting to the lullaby of his heartbeat.

Darcy held her like a lost child, for he knew she was. His chin rested atop her head and he dreamed of the day it wouldn’t take an emergency for her to spend the night in his arms.

A few hours later, a nurse brought them a breakfast tray and gently shook Darcy’s shoulder.

“You wanted a wake up call at shift change, Mr. Darcy?”

He smiled at the young woman and thanked her as he stroked Lizzy’s hair.

“Wake up, sleeping beauty. Your prince has turned into a toad, one that needs to hop to the nearest restroom.”

Lizzy turned her head away and yawned like a lion before she rose from her seat. He had held her through the wee hours of the morning and the thought of if, coupled with another huge yawn, made her blush deeply.

After he left for the restroom, she took the orange juice from the tray and gulped it down. She’d find coffee on her way to the clinic.

Lizzy went to stand beside her daddy taking his pale hand in her own once more. His chest rose and fell evenly and he appeared to be having the best sleep of his life. She hated to leave him but she wouldn’t dare let him down with the clinic.

Darcy returned and Lizzy was grateful for his solid presence at her back.

“We’ve got to go, your mother will be here soon. I have to pick up Georgie at the airport and we’ll come straight to the clinic.”

Lizzy shook her head.

“There’s no hurry for Georgie to jump right in, or you for that matter. I can handle the clinic for a week, at least, on my own. I still have my receptionist, the business manager who goes on vacation next week, and two assistants.”

Darcy listened patiently but was determined to do his part in the family business that would now include his family.

After Lizzy checked on her father one last time, Darcy led her from the room and stood at the nurse’s station while she made certain her personal cell number was in their notes along with the number for the Bennet Clinic.

They left the hospital together and Lizzy trembled as the gravity of the situation hit her full force. She’d been running on fumes the night before, wearing her superwoman cape and staying strong for her family but the cool morning air brought her out of her carefully constructed zen.

Darcy turned and gazed into her eyes as the tears fell from her beautiful long lashes. He kissed them away and held her close. The early light of dawn streaked the sky and a ray of sun filtered through the trees along the front of the hospital.

He took one fiery curl in his hand and placed a kiss there too.

“They are as lovely in the sun as I remembered, maybe even lovelier.”

Chapter 10

Lizzy worked through the day leaving explanations regarding her father’s health to the receptionist. Flowers arrived like clockwork and she became irritable. It wasn’t that she disliked flowers, it was the images they brought to mind all clustered around the desk and making their way into each exam room. She wouldn’t let them place a single vase in her daddy’s office. It was downright funereal in the clinic as it was.

Her mother had called twice to say that their was a brigade of  friends and neighbors all camped out on Longbourn Lane just waiting to comfort them when they came home.

“Lizzy, he isn’t dead for heaven’s sake!” she exclaimed over the phone.

“No mother, they just love daddy and all of us so much. You know how these things gain a life of their own. I daresay you and the girls will be happy for a bite to eat when you get home.”

“I meant to ask you how your dinner date went with that charming Mr. Darcy. He does live in the grandest home in Netherfield Park doesn’t he?”

Elizabeth sighed into the phone.

“Yes, mother, he does. And he stayed at the hospital with me through the night. But I can’t think about a romance at a time like this.”

Her mother made a perturbed noise and shushed her.

“Listen here Lizzy Bennet. Your father will recover, the doctor has assured me of that fact only an hour ago. To have a wedding at the end of all this stress would be doing your father and I a favor. Now, you keep your eye on Mr. Darcy.”

Lizzy refused to be drawn into such a foolish conversation while her father recovered from a heart attack.

“I have to go, mother. I have patients waiting and I won’t be home for dinner. I will be at the hospital later so you can go home and rest.”

Mrs. Bennet’s voice broke and Lizzy breathed deeply to maintain her composure.

“Oh Lizzy, my dear, you can’t work yourself to death and sit up every night. Besides, Jane called and is on her way home now. She arrives tonight.”

Lizzy smiled at that one bright spot in her day and hung up the phone. Jane would be the rock she needed to keep her moving along at an even keel.

An hour later, she sent her assistants to lunch and cared for the last patient before the ones scheduled for the afternoon started to arrive. She came out of the exam room and led the woman with the parrot to the reception desk with instructions to help the poor bird.

“Chantal is likely nervous because you changed the furniture in the room where her cage is located. The receptionist will give you a sample of the calmatives we spoke of and they should make a world of difference, but if Chantal has any other behaviors that are concerning or causes harm to herself please come in right away.”

The bird owner thanked her profusely and stopped to settle her bill and take the sample from the receptionist.

Lizzy turned to go back and clean the exam room before grabbing lunch for herself. That orange juice at the hospital hadn’t gone as far as she hoped and there’d been no time for coffee.

Darcy held the door for the lady and her parrot and Georgiana cooed quietly at the poor bird. Chantal rubbed against the cage where Georgie’s hand lingered and Lizzy smiled. She might be fresh from her studies but the girl did seem to have a way with animals.

They followed Lizzy to the exam room and Georgie grabbed a pair of gloves and went to work making sure the room was spotless for their next patient. Darcy nodded to Lizzy.

“I tried to keep her home and let her unpack but when she heard about your father and the clinic, she insisted on coming.”

Georgie smiled brightly as she threw her gloves in the trash and washed up. It was then Lizzy noticed she was in scrubs too and ready for duty.

“I was just going to grab some lunch before our afternoon patients arrive. The first three are simple and my assistants can handle those so that gives us almost an hour for lunch unless they page me for an emergency.”

Darcy led the women from the exam room to the front of the clinic. The receptionist was already absorbed in a  gossip magazine and a heavenly baby spinach salad with strawberries and feta cheese. Lizzy’s stomach growled as she caught the aroma of her balsamic dressing.

Darcy laughed and the three left the clinic and walked in the bright sunshine to the cafe around the corner.

“Miss Darcy, I warn you now, they have the juiciest burgers in town. And their seafood salad is amazing!”

Georgiana smiled and walked shoulder to shoulder with Lizzy, leaving her brother to follow behind.

“Please call me Georgie, everyone does. And I haven’t had a good burger in ages. Fries come with that, right?”

Lizzy laughed.

“Oh yes, Georgie, and the best milkshakes you’ve ever had.”

They sat on the patio and made their order. Darcy checked his phone and sighed.

“Richard is coming down now that he knows you’re here, Georgie. His plane arrives tonight. Do you think you could meet him?”

“I would love too. I can’t wait to see him. Its been since last Christmas, I think, at Aunt Catherine’s stuffy old party.”

Lizzy watched the dynamic between them and although she loved her sisters she always wanted a brother, someone to balance the estrogen in the house.

“Jane arrives tonight as well. I wonder what time she gets in?”

Lizzy checked her phone for the first time since the evening before and there was the answer to her question in a text from Jane.

Arriving 9 pm from Ghana, ride please

Lizzy laughed and sipped the lemonade the waiter set before her.

“Seems I need to gather Jane at the airport tonight too. She’s arriving from Ghana. She got my message halfway home.”

Georgiana nodded.

“If you show me a picture, I can pick her up. Richard is arriving from Ghana as well. Isn’t that a happy coincidence?”

Lizzy glanced at Darcy, the confusion apparent on her face.

“Richard is the director of a nonprofit that puts computers in the hands of kids in third world and underserved communities. Perhaps he and Jane are on the same flight?”

Lizzy thought of the blessings of serendipity and shared photos of Jane from her phone with Georgiana.

“I can grab them both, no problem! I imagine your sister will want to come straight to the hospital?”

Lizzy nodded and fell silent as the burgers arrived. She messaged Jane about Georgie being her ride home and mentioned Richard.

Jane replied immediately.

Lizzy, he has a crush on me!

Lizzy raised an eyebrow and answered back.

Is he handsome enough for that?

She put her phone down as the waiter brought their drinks. It buzzed once more but she was lost in conversation with Georgiana all while sneaking glances at Darcy.

“Will plans on joining us at the clinic next week once your business manager has gone on vacation. He’s quite the expert in business, Lizzy.”

Lizzy sighed and felt her heart grow heavy at the idea of working so closely with the man who set her heart on fire with his kisses. Darcy noted the frown that creased her brow and sought to reassure her of his intentions.

“I promise to help the clinic run as smoothly as possible until your father returns.”

At least it would be a week before their manager Ellis left and Darcy was way overqualified for the position. Lizzy figured he’d grow bored in a few days time. The clinic didn’t offer the high stakes deals or intrigue of his Pemberley Partnership group.

They finished lunch without an emergency call from her clinic, or her mother, but Elizabeth checked her phone to be sure.

Only another text from Jane.

I assure you Lizzy Bennet, I am handsome enough to be crushing on your sister.

Her face grew red and she shoved the phone into the deep pocket on the side of her scrub pants. Jane hadn’t said a word about Darcy’s cousin outside of his tremendous support for the global technical initiative she dedicated her time to. Lizzy would grill her while they sat by their daddy’s bedside tonight.

They arrived at the clinic right before the afternoon patients and Lizzy was pleased with her assistants and their work ethic.

Darcy took her hand, his eyes full of admiration and kissed it lightly. Lizzy was embarrassed at this display in front of his sister and the entire staff of her clinic. She pulled her hand away gently, not wanting to make him feel awkward and turned to Georgie.

“I can’t wait to work with you. We can gossip about the professors at Auburn while we take care of our furry friends.”

Georgie smiled and pulled her long blond hair back into a ponytail.

“I could talk for hours on that subject but for now, let’s get to work.”

Lizzy glanced at the front door and breathed deeply. She was tired from being up all night and the lunch she’d eaten was certain to slow her down around two this afternoon.

She took Georgie’s hand and shooed Darcy away with the promise that he could meet them later around six.

Darcy watched his only sister disappear with the woman of his dreams and felt a twinge of loneliness. They wouldn’t need him for the next few hours. He’d go home, shower, take care of Lola and make them the best home-cooked dinner ever.

* * *

Later, as she sat full and happily surprised at Darcy’s skills in the kitchen, Lizzy quizzed Georgie on her days at Auburn.

“Oh yes, professor Dunn is still terrorizing her students with that semester long test that makes you crawl under your desk and weep for mercy.”

Lizzy laughed at the memory. Honestly, it had been easier for her having grown up with a veterinarian father who shared his enthusiasm and love for his calling. Still, there were moments when she had questioned why she ever thought she could be a vet.

“I believe you must have been her star pupil judging by your method and dedication in my clinic today.”

Darcy’s face beamed with pride as he glanced at his sister. Georgie murmured her bashful acceptance of Lizzy’s praise and rose from the table.

“Time for me to get to the airport.”

Lizzy nodded and watched as Georgie stepped around the table and left a kiss on her brother’s cheek.

“I loved shadowing Lizzy today. It was amazing to do the work I’ve dreamed of with a competent and talented vet.”

Darcy and Lizzy rose and walked to the front door with Georgie. She took the young woman’s hand as she stepped out into the summer night.

“The pleasure was all mine. I admit I was worried when your brother and my father made their agreement but it seems I’m the one who will benefit the most.”

Lizzy wanted to stay with Darcy but his cousin would be back soon with Georgie. And she wanted to sit with her father. She stepped from the circle of his arms after Georgie left and bid him goodnight.

“Thank you for the dinner and the company. A girl could fall for a man who’s that good in the kitchen.”

Darcy laughed and tried to pull her back inside.

Now you tell me. I would have made you a four course meal that night instead of taken you to Lake Mistake.”

Darcy knew it was a lie, not that he wouldn’t have wooed her with his culinary skills but he’d never forget that night before Billy Collins happened upon them.

Lizzy blew him a kiss and walked backwards to her car, a dazzling smile plastered across her face.

Chapter 11

Lizzy arrived at the hospital and checked her watch.

She thought of dinner at the Darcy residence and how right it felt. Georgie reminded her of herself as a new vet and Darcy simply glowed with love for his sister. Seeing his domesticated side had been a huge turn on.

Still, the hurdle of next week loomed before them and Lizzy hoped they could work as well as they played together.

The door to her father’s private room was open and the muted noise of a television greeted her. Her mother had left an hour ago at the prompting of her father. Their familiar banter over the phone had gone a long way in assuring her things were almost back to normal. She hurried to his side and kissed his cheek, noting how his color had improved.

Mr. Bennet lifted Lizzy’s hand to his lips and shook his head.

“My dearest daughter, I never meant to leave you in such a bind. The doctor told me last week that everything checked out as usual. Good thing I met with Mr. Darcy when I did.”

Lizzy stared at him with the look he had grown accustomed to from the women in his life lately. She wanted to argue that even without Darcy’s deal the clinic would have hummed along nicely, but she refrained.

“Daddy, you haven’t left me in a bind. Georgiana is an excellent addition to the clinic and you know Ellis doesn’t go on vacation until next week. Then we’ll see if Darcy can handle the business side of Lizzy Bennet.”

Her father smiled at his spirited daughter. She’d been too upset over him lately for her own good.

“So are you saying he can handle the other side of Lizzy Bennet?”

Lizzy found the television remote and muted the noise, avoiding his gaze.

“Darcy and I haven’t quarreled yet, if that’s what you’re getting at. No lover’s spat. We’re getting to know one another again and I like this Darcy a lot better than the one I met in college.”

Mr. Bennet tilted his head at his favorite daughter.

“I know your mother is pleased with your interest in Mr. Darcy. Even I can see the man has turned your head.”

Lizzy smiled sweetly at her father.

“If the interest between Jane and Darcy’s cousin is genuine, mother’s matchmaking eye will be drawn away from my love life any minute now.”

Mr. Bennet patted the side of his hospital bed.

“What’s this? Jane has another suitor and he’s related to Mr. Darcy?”

Lizzy sat, relaxing for the first time in several days. Having her father to talk to was a blessing she’d never take for granted again.

“He’s a big investor in the non-profit she adores. To hear Georgie tell it, he’s a rough, tough guy with brains, savvy, and money. I have no idea what else Jane could want in a man.”

Mr. Bennet laughed at Lizzy.

“The same as you I suspect, someone she can fall in love with.”

Lizzy dismissed his romantic speech with a wave of her hand.

“Dr. Moore says you’ll need therapy for a while after he releases you so I don’t want to see your face at the clinic. Mother will kill both of us if you even suggest a visit to see how things are going.”

He opened his mouth to complain but Lizzy shushed him.

“I mean it, daddy. I will side with mother on this, shocking as that may be. You made this deal with Darcy and now we’ll see how it plays out. Believe me, I can handle the Bennet Clinic and Will Darcy.”

They heard Jane’s voice in the hallway and Lizzy went to meet her. She glanced around for any sign of Georgie and Richard.

“I told them not to bother parking and coming in. I figured daddy might be sleeping at this hour. I did throw my bags in your back seat and lock the doors.”

Lizzy followed her to their father’s bedside. He kissed Jane as she bent to hug him gently. He nodded at Lizzy and winked.

“She’s been distracted lately by the men in her life.”

Jane sat in the chair beside the bed and crossed her long legs.

“Men, as in plural?”

Lizzy dimmed the light over the bed and shot a warning glance to her father.

“He’s getting to be a gossip just like mother in his old age. Besides, he’s the one who brought Darcy into the picture, not me.”

Jane laughed and then turned her attention to Mr. Bennet.

“Daddy, you look so tired. What happened?”

Mr. Bennet regaled his eldest daughter with the events of the  evening of his heart attack and the days since. Lizzy moved to the window, her mind returning to Darcy.

Was she falling in love with him or was it just the chemistry between them that left her breathless after each meeting? That chemistry hadn’t been as strong in their college days but it was undeniable now.

Jane tapped her on the shoulder and Lizzy jumped.

“Daddy’s sleeping. He didn’t want us to stay all night. Let’s go and you can tell me about Darcy.”

Lizzy glanced at their father and found his remote again. She clicked off the television and left quietly with Jane. In the hallway she took her sister’s hand.

“I think a better topic of discussion would be Richard and his crush on you.”

Jane blushed and bit her bottom lip.

“He’s been making a play for a while now but I always just brushed it aside. He’s such a flirt, Lizzy. And there is no shortage of women trailing behind him.”

Lizzy took the keys from her purse as they exited the hospital.

“How did all these women fit in Georgie’s car? Must have been awkward.”

Jane lifted an eyebrow and fixed Lizzy with her patented older sister stare.

“You know what I mean. He’s not here because of me and even if he were I’m not going to be his next conquest. Now, what about Darcy?”

Lizzy pulled smoothly onto the road beside the hospital, taking her time before answering Jane’s question.

“I’m not so sure that he isn’t here for you. I imagine the idea that this is your hometown made this visit all the more meaningful to the man. And since he texted me from your phone, I don’t think you’re telling me everything.”

Jane shook her head at Lizzy.

“He’s got a hard head Lizzy. He paid the man beside me to switch seats. I think he held my hand the entire flight. But the topic was Darcy, if I recall.”

Lizzy turned a triumphant grin on her sister.

“Darcy is Darcy. Charm, sophistication, and he has some killer moves…in the kitchen. I enjoy his company.”

Lizzy sighed and Jane rolled her eyes.

“Please, I caught you daydreaming while I was talking with daddy and by the look on your face it wasn’t a thing to do with the clinic.”

Lizzy was grateful for the lateness of the hour and hoped Jane was feeling some jet lag. She wasn’t sure about her feelings for Darcy any more than Jane was about Richard.

They arrived on Longbourn Lane and Lizzy sighed.

“We’ll have to talk about Darcy and Richard tomorrow. I’m beat!”

Jane sighed and stepped from her sister’s vehicle.

“Help me with my luggage and I’ll bunk with you tonight.”

Lizzy laughed and pulled her sister’s swanky bags from the back of the Rover.

“We haven’t done that in ages but I warn you, I’ll probably be asleep the moment my head hits the pillow.”

Jane opened the front door for her and hurried her inside.

“It’s Friday night Lizzy Bennet, we can grab some popcorn and watch old movies.”

Chapter 12

Lizzy woke to the sound of Jane singing in her shower and frowned. Not that she didn’t enjoy the company of her sister but there really was only so much hot water to go around.

Luckily it was Saturday morning and the clinic opened two hours later than the rest of the week.

Jane exited the bathroom wrapped in towels, the smile on her face as sunny and bright as always. Lizzy yawned loudly noting that jet lag was never a problem for Jane.

“I think we need a cook out today, Lizzy. We can laze around the pool and dance to music from the country station. I’ll put Mary and Kitty to work in the kitchen while you’re at the clinic and Lydia can get on the phone and invite folks over.”

Lizzy stretched and motioned for Jane to come sit on the bed.

“Bring the brush and I’ll work on your hair.”

Jane hurried to obey, she loved this particular sisterly habit and missed being fussed over by Lizzy. She ought to have known there would be a price to pay before Lizzy spoke again.

“Are you going to invite Richard?”

Jane shrugged her shoulders.

“It wouldn’t be polite to ignore him when I know good and well you’ll ask Georgie and Darcy.”

Jane was on top of her game this morning.

“Maybe they have something else planned since Richard just got in last night? I’ll definitely mention it to Georgie today but I wouldn’t count them in just yet.”

Jane picked up her phone and showed Lizzy the latest text message from Richard.

What can we bring?

Lizzy sighed and continued brushing Jane’s hair.

“Does mother know we’re hosting a cook out while daddy’s in the hospital?”

Jane waved her hand.

“Mother won’t mind one bit and half of town will show up anyway. Besides, daddy doesn’t want us up at the hospital every blessed day, he said so himself last night.”

Lizzy stood and handed Jane the brush.

“On that note, I’m going to jump in the shower and pray you left some hot water. I almost forgot about Augie. I’m bringing him over this weekend after work. I think I’ll take him with me this morning too. He’ll love all the attention in the waiting room.”

Jane pulled a sundress from her luggage and hurried from Lizzy’s room to make breakfast and give their younger sisters marching orders for the day.

* * *

Richard sat in the kitchen with Georgie while she made omelettes. Darcy walked in fresh from the shower and poured coffee. He glanced at his cousin and noted the smile that was far too bright this early in the morning on a weekend.

“Richard, you’ve got be tired after that flight. Georgie’s going in to the Bennet clinic this morning and I have some business to do from home. We can catch up later today.”

Richard took his plate from Georgie and dug in.

“Not the least bit tired, cousin. In fact, Jane invited us all to a cook out this afternoon. Of course I told her we’d be there.”

Georgie glanced at her brother as she plated his breakfast.

“This one’s for you and I’ve got to run. I want to be at the clinic before Lizzy.”

She kissed his cheek and then hugged Richard before leaving the kitchen. Richard watched her go and shook his head.

“When did she grow up?”

Darcy smiled and took a bite of his omelette.

“While you were traveling the globe dating models. How’s that going anyway? Interesting to find you and Jane work together.”

Richard pushed his plate away and got up for another cup of coffee.

“Jane Bennet is interesting and interested in me, I hope. She tries to play hard to get which makes the chase all the more exciting.”

Darcy laughed and put down his fork.

“I don’t think she’s playing, man. She’s had better offers from wealthier, and handsomer, men than you.”

Richard sipped his coffee and Darcy waited for his retort. There was always a retort. Richard was a confident, self-made man who’d been a colonel in special forces before starting his tech company. Despite the fact that his family had as much money as Darcy’s, Richard set his own goals and lived his own life without the aid of his family fortune.

“That could be true, the wealthier part, but this face and body are a killer combo. No suit is going to be enough for the likes of Jane Bennet. She doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty and her heart is pure gold.”

Darcy smiled. He hadn’t meant to infer that Jane would be interested in Richard’s money at all. He was the perfect match for her because of their common interest in technology for the masses.

“Fair enough. Don’t get your heart broken, though. The Bennet sisters don’t fall in love as easily as you might think.”

It was Richard’s turn to laugh.

“Georgie already told me about you and Lizzy. If she picked up on it within twenty-four hours then you must have it bad.”

Darcy collected their plates and rinsed them in the sink. Greta had the weekends off, so he placed them in the dishwasher before scooping Lola into his arms. He handed Richard the apron Georgie had left on the counter.

“I’m going to walk the princess and then put in a few hours of work. Why don’t you figure out what to make for this cook out?”

Richard folded the frilly apron in half and tied it on.

“I was thinking we’d raid your wine stash and be done with it. You know I’m not that great of a cook.”

Darcy was lost in conversation with Lola and left Richard to figure it out himself.

He picked up his phone and messaged Jane.

If I were in need of a strawberry rhubarb pie in Meryton where should I go?

His phone buzzed a few minutes later as he dug around in his cousin’s kitchen cabinets.

The bakery on main, of course. It closes at noon, though. I love strawberry rhubarb pie.

He smiled at her message and sent her words he was certain would earn him a place by her side this afternoon.

I’ll bring more than one.

Richard removed the apron and drank another cup of coffee. Once Darcy returned and locked himself in his office he’d head down to main street and grab as many pies as he could.

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