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Playing Around in Derbyshire - 5 & 6

August 16, 2018 08:27AM
Chapter five


Jessica checked her reflection in the large hallway mirror. After spending half an hour with the hairdresser she felt more like Elizabeth Bennet than ever. They'd pinned her hair up properly at the back, and created ringlets that fell on either side of her face. She shook her head, smiling as the curls danced.

Dew coated the grass as she left the house, but overhead the sky was blue, with only the occasional fluffy white cloud to break up the monotony. Bees buzzed lazily as they danced between the stalks of purple and lilac bell-shaped flowers.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning.

The cast assembled on the lawn outside wardrobe for publicity photographs. Jane wore pale blue, with blue ribbons crossing over the bodice. Georgiana's white gown, trimmed with thin bands of pale green velvet, only aided the impression of youthful innocence. A sombre black coat, breeches, white stockings and shiny black shoes transformed Trevor into a serious looking butler, while Mrs Reynolds appeared even more austere in plain grey with an old lace scarf around her neck and shoulders, and a frilly white cap covering her grey hair.

Mr. Gardiner seemed to be struggling with his waistcoat, pulling it down over his protruding belly. "I bet that damned woman made this short on purpose."

"Oh do stop moaning, Gerald." Mrs Gardiner looked neat in her caramel and cream striped walking dress with light shawl and high crowned bonnet. "Perhaps if you didn't go back for seconds at dinner your costume might be a little more comfortable."

"That's just the sort of sympathy I'd expect from you," he grumbled before wandering off.

Darcy and Bingley arrived a few minutes later, and Jess wasn't the only one admiring the view. Mr. Bingley's chocolate brown coat and pale breeches were half hidden by a light grey driving coat that brushed the ankles of his leather boots as he walked. Gareth carried a tall hat and brown leather gloves in one hand and a cane in the other. He'd swapped his glasses for contact lenses, while the hairdresser had brushed his sandy blonde hair forward onto his face, in the style of a proper Regency gent. Jessica thought the period clothes suited him very well, and now he'd removed those ugly metal rims he didn't look half bad.

Yet Mr. Bingley couldn't hold her interest when Darcy was right in front of her, in the dark blue morning coat she'd seen the previous day. He wasn't wearing a long overcoat, so she could better admire how snugly his breeches seemed to mould themselves around his thighs. Sliding her gaze upwards, she met his eyes. He smiled and she felt herself blush again.

Sebastian offered a gentlemanly bow. "Did Miss Bennet sleep well?"

Before she could answer, Caroline stepped between them, brushing imaginary fluff from the front of his coat. "You are very smart this morning." She looked him up and down, although to Jess it seemed more down than up. "I knew you'd look fantastic in those breeches."

Sebastian nodded his thanks as he offered a polite response, before adding. "Nice dress, by the way."

Caroline's dark apricot gown was rather more embellished than the others, with a low, wide neckline, and a short embroidered train. The sort of thing the ladies of Jane Austen's time would have worn in the evening, rather than on a damp lawn just after breakfast. She shared a simpering smile and a wobbly curtsy. "Why, thank you, kind sir."

The press photographer shouted to attract everyone's attention, as Mandy shuffled the cast into their correct positions. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy stood in the middle of the group, with Jane and Mr. Bingley on one side and Mr. and Mrs Gardiner on the other. Jess thought they probably looked like a wedding party, with herself and Sebastian playing the part of the bride and groom. Everyone else clustered around them, and Jess smiled for the camera until her cheeks ached.

"Now if we can have Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet on their own?" The photographer adjusted their positions and returned behind the lens before bringing in Jane and Bingley for a small group shot. After a few more pictures, either in a group or pairs, he finally seemed satisfied and they were allowed to return to the house for their final dress rehearsal.

The previous evening Mandy had given them a tour of the ground floor, where they would be presenting their scenes. Every room was a generous size, although some were more cluttered with furniture than others. In the third scene they took advantage of two separate doors, so Sebastian could enter from the opposite side.

"Miss Bennet!" He froze in place, as though in shock.

Not to be outdone, Jess gasped, her eyes wide. "Mr. Darcy!"

"I—" Sebastian paused again, seemingly at a loss for words.

"We did not expect to see you, sir. We were told the family were away from home, or we should never have presumed to disturb your peace."

"I returned unexpectedly. H...have you been in Derbyshire long?"

Elizabeth looked away, uncomfortably embarrassed. "Two days, sir."

"And are your family well?"

"Yes, they are very well."

"Where are you staying?"

"At the Lambton Inn. Do you know it?"

"Yes, of course." After another moment of silence, Mr. Darcy made his excuses and slipped out of the room, leaving Elizabeth to continue the scene with her aunt and uncle.

Mrs Gardiner moved closer. "Was that the master of the house? So handsome, and so like his portrait! He has an admirable figure. It was very kind of him to notice you."

"Oh, Aunt," Elizabeth sobbed, "we must leave at once!"

Mr. Gardiner stepped forward. "But why? Was Mr. Darcy unhappy with our presence?"

"No, not at all, but..." Jess allowed the sentence to trail off as she crossed to the side of the room as, from this point, Elizabeth would be revealing her thoughts directly to the audience, like a Shakespearean soliloquy. "How strange my arrival here must be to him! Why did I agree to come? Or, why did he come home earlier than expected?" Jess paused for a beat, her gloved hands clasping and unclasping. "And his behaviour, so strikingly altered. That he should even wish to speak to me...and speak with such civility, to enquire after my family! Never in my life have I seen his manners so little dignified. What does it mean?"

Mr. Gardiner interrupted her performance. "Shouldn't Darcy be wearing fewer clothes in this scene?

"Oh, yes! A wet shirt," Mrs Gardiner agreed, smiling. "I'd like to see that."

Jess shook her head. "The BBC miniseries had him meeting Elizabeth in a wet shirt, but in the book, he's coming from the stables." It seemed to Jess that more than one Gardiner was disappointed by her news.

After meeting Mr. Darcy again in the dining room, they were appropriately astonished by his reappearance. After declining his offer of refreshment, and once he had asked permission to introduce his sister, it was time for them to break for lunch.

The group returned downstairs to the servant's hall, their costumes covered with strategically placed napkins to keep them clean. No one doubted the icy reception they'd receive in wardrobe if any of the clothing was returned covered in grease stains.

Even Darcy did not trust his luck to that extent.

Dress rehearsals continued after lunch; the cast moving through the house until they reached the card room, where Elizabeth and her aunt would pay a formal visit to Miss Darcy at Pemberley. The first lines were somewhat stilted, reflecting the young girl's lack of experience in Society. Of course, Miss Bingley had no trouble conversing with their guests, particularly once Mr. Darcy made his appearance.

Ruth Swale played her part so well, her impression of Caroline Bingley so exact, that Jessica found very little to like.

"Pray, Miss Eliza, are not the Militia removed from Meryton?" Miss Bingley's expression was both disingenuous and saccharine as she paused for a response.

Jessica straightened her back, and raised her chin, irritated on Elizabeth's behalf. "Yes, they are now gone to Brighton."

Caroline's feigned solicitousness was honey-sweet. "Oh dear! That must be a great loss to your family."

As Georgiana shuffled uncomfortably in her chair, Jessica allowed her gaze to drift to Darcy and, for a brief moment, their eyes met. He smiled, and she wondered what he was thinking. Once Elizabeth and Aunt Gardiner left the room, Jess lingered outside the door, listening to the remainder of the scene.

"How very ill Eliza Bennet looks this morning, Mr. Darcy," she declaimed with enthusiasm. "I never in my life saw anyone so much altered as she is since the winter. She is grown so brown and coarse!

"She is somewhat tanned, but that is no miraculous consequence, given they have been travelling in the summer," he replied.

Jess knew from the script's directions that Caroline would move herself centre stage at this point. "For my own part, I confess that I never could see any beauty in her. Her face is too thin, her complexion has no brilliancy, and her features are not at all handsome. Her nose wants character; there is nothing marked in its lines. Her teeth are tolerable, but not out of the common way; and as for her eyes, which I have sometimes heard called fine, I never could perceive anything extraordinary in them. They have a sharp, shrewish look, which I do not like at all; and in her air altogether, there is a self-sufficiency without fashion which is intolerable." There was a beat before she continued. "I remember, when we first knew her in Hertfordshire, and how amazed we all were to find that she was a reputed beauty. I particularly recollect your saying, one night after they had been dining at Netherfield, She a beauty! I should as soon call her mother a wit. But afterwards she seemed to improve on you, and I believe you thought her rather pretty at one time."

"Yes," replied Darcy, in a voice laced with impatience, "but that was only when I first knew her, for it is many months since I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance."

Darcy's words made Jess smile, but not as much as when Sebastian followed Caroline out into the hallway at the end of the scene. "Ah, and here she is," he said as he took her hand in his. "The most handsome woman of my acquaintance."

They quickly ran through the remaining scenes. Mrs Reynolds reappeared after her costume change for the scene entitled 'Lady Catherine's visit' and entered into the spirit of the part with gusto. The rest of the cast took the part of the audience behind the red rope and applauded their confrontation.

Darcy's second proposal went very much as it had the previous day. When he kissed her again, she found that she needed to grab his lapels in case her legs decided to abandon the fight to stay upright. She still wasn't sure that his response to her positive answer was quite what the fans would be expecting; and―more to the point―it left her own emotions in jumbled confusion.

When the kiss ended, Darcy held her in his arms for a few seconds longer than necessary, looking down into her eyes. Did he realise how much it affected her? She was an actor. She should be able to kiss another cast member whenever the script called for it without suffering such a strong reaction. Jessica promised herself to be more professional when it came to the real performance, and not allow her own feelings to ruin the moment. She had to remain detached.

As everyone left the last room, to return their costumes and change for dinner, she held back from the group, preferring to walk alone and give herself time to review her performance. As Jessica entered the hall she found Mr. Bingley waiting for her. Gareth was a nice guy. As tired as Jess was, she didn't have the heart to rebuff him. It would be like kicking a puppy.

"I thought your scene with Lady Catherine was particularly effective," he said. "I liked the way you paused in the middle, just for a second or two. You should make a point of keeping that in."

"Thank you. I think I should too. You and Jane work really well together. I enjoyed Bingley's proposal very much. We don't usually get to see that scene, as Jane Austen skipped over it in the book."

Gareth smiled. "Yes, it's a lot of fun. I've never proposed to anyone before, so the nervousness isn't entirely an act, but Laura is fantastic to work with. She's been a real help."

"It's lucky you two get on so well."

There was a moment of silence before he spoke again. "You know, it's a pity Charles Bingley was such a complete ass."

Jess paused at the top of the stairs leading to the basement. "What makes you say that?"

He looked down at the hall runner, hands thrust into his pockets. "It's obvious really. He fell in love with the wrong sister. I've often thought Bingley needed someone more confident as his wife. Someone who would help to steer the family through life, rather than follow him blindly. Jane was too meek for him."

Jessica was surprised he knew the book so well, although she couldn't bring herself to agree with his interpretation of it. "I honestly thought Jane and Bingley made the perfect couple, so I never imagined him with anyone else."

"Sometimes couples can be too perfect. He is too easily led, and Jane too complying. I've no doubt Jane and Bingley would get along fine but, like Mr. Bennet says, nothing would ever be decided between them. Each one would be forever deferring decisions to the other." He looked up then, to see Jessica's reaction.

"I haven't thought of it like that before," Jess said as she made her way down the stairs. "Don't you think Elizabeth would soon become bored with Bingley? I mean...well, I don't think she'd necessarily want a husband who was quite so persuadable. Mr. Bennet also tells Elizabeth that she needs to be able to respect her partner. Do you really think she could respect easy-going Mr. Bingley?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "If he loved her, and she loved him, he would grow to become the kind of husband she needed. The challenge might have been good for him."

Jessica smiled as she nudged his elbow. "Well, look on the bright side. If Jane Austen had thought that way, then you might have ended up proposing to me, rather than Laura. Scary thought, eh?"

He rolled his eyes. "Yeah, and that would have been such hard work."

Jessica punched him playfully on the shoulder. "It could have been. You have no idea what a diva I can be when I'm in a bad mood."

He held the door open for her, allowing her to walk past him. "I don't think you could ever be a diva, but if you want to pretend I won't tell the others."

"Won't tell us what?" Jane asked as they joined the back of the queue waiting for wardrobe.

Bingley gave another half-hearted shrug before wandering off to talk to Gerald.

Jane cast a curious look at Jessica. "What was all that about?"

"We were only talking about the Bingley from the book." She could see that Jane was still unsure. "I swear I'm not after your Mr. Bingley."

"He's not my Mr. Bingley," Laura quoted, a half smile on her lips.

"No? Well, if he isn't yet then he soon will be if you continue to spend so much time together."



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Chapter six



Mr. Gardiner pushed his chair back from the table, patting his stomach. "Whatever I might say about them saving money on the production, at least they don't scrimp on the food. I could get used to this life."

Mrs Gardiner glanced at the empty serving dishes piled up at their end of the table, her pointed nose wrinkling with disapproval. "You're like a pig at a trough. I've never known anyone who eats so much."

"I'm only taking advantage of the bounty they put in front of me. It would be a shame to waste it." He lifted a pack of playing cards out of his pocket and glanced around the table. "I've heard card games were really popular during Jane Austen's time, and even the posh ladies played. Can I tempt any of you to join me in a hand or two of whist? If Mandy objects we'll call it historical research."

"Some of us have better things to do," Caroline said as she excused herself and left the room. Mrs Gardiner shook her head, removing instead to a comfy chair in a quiet corner where she curled up for the evening with a well-worn book of sudoku puzzles.

Mrs Reynolds had brought her knitting but laid the bag to one side. "I'll have a go, although you'll have to remind me of the rules. I haven't played whist in years."

Mr. Flint helped to clear the table, while Georgiana expressed an interest, although she admitted she was a complete novice when it came to games.

"I'm a bit rusty myself," Mr. Gardiner admitted, "so we can all learn together."

Everyone else moved away from the table, settling into the comfy chairs in front of a small television. Sebastian flicked through the channels with an air of restlessness. "So this is what a Saturday evening looks like in the middle of nowhere. How did people cope, living so many miles from civilisation?"

"I think they used to entertain themselves." Jess nodded towards the table, where Mr. Gardiner had just taken the first trick. "They played games, read books, and strolled in the garden."

"I think it's beautiful here," Jane said. "I'd love to live in a place like this. The closest I get to the countryside is walking my dogs on the heath, and I have to catch the tube to get there."

Gareth yawned, stretching his legs in front of him. "I grew up in the countryside. You get used to the quiet and soon learn how to entertain yourself."

Sebastian turned to Jane. "Don't get me wrong. Derbyshire seems like a nice place. I'm just used to walking down the street and seeing friends, or popping round to my local pub, or having a meal at the Chinese restaurant on the corner. Exley Hall is miles from their nearest neighbour. It feels so isolated, as though we're living on an island. I'm not sure I would have wanted to live here full time."

"That might be why Mrs Reynolds has the line about Darcy not visiting Pemberley very often," Jess said. "He must have preferred life in town too."

"See? I'm more like Darcy than anyone realised." A muffled jingle came from the vicinity of his pocket. Apologising for the interruption he pulled out his phone, glancing at the message on the screen. "It's from a friend. He's been having a rough time lately. I think I ought to ring him back. Do you mind? I won't be long."

"Of course not. Go ahead." As Sebastian left the room Jess felt flattered that he'd even asked her. They were co-workers, sitting together, watching television. It's not like they were on a date.

A few minutes later Sebastian's head came around the door, and he signalled for Jess to join him. As she slipped into the empty hall, he said, "My friend is a huge fan of Jane Austen. I mentioned I was working with a fantastic Elizabeth Bennet and he wanted to know what you looked like. No description of mine can do justice to the reality. Would it be alright if we take a photo together, so I can show him?"

Jess looked down at her jeans and t-shirt. She didn't feel much like Elizabeth in these clothes. "Wouldn't it be better to wait until tomorrow, when we're in costume?"

"I'm sure he'd love that, but I think he could do with cheering up tonight. Is that okay?"

Who could object to a photo with Mr. Darcy, in or out of costume? "No problem. I'm happy to help."

Sebastian moved to her side, wrapping one arm around her waist as he held his phone with his other hand. Jess felt a tingle in her chest as he pulled her closer, and bent his knees slightly to counteract the difference in their height.

"Ready?"

"Go for it," Jess mumbled between lips frozen into a smile.

A flash lit up the dim hallway, momentarily blinding Jess. She blinked to clear the afterimage dancing on her eyeballs.

Darcy checked his screen. "We both look like ghosts. The flash on this phone is rubbish. Can we try again somewhere else? There's still some daylight outside."

Jess nodded her agreement and they left the basement by the outside stairs that led directly to the gardens. She took in a deep breath, enjoying the unpolluted country air. No matter what anyone thought about the inconveniences of being in the countryside, at least there was no smog or exhaust fumes; just the summer scents of lilac and honeysuckle. "When we're stuck in that dingy basement it's easy to forget that it stays light for longer at this time of year. We're only a couple of weeks from the longest day."

"The scenery is certainly beautiful," he agreed, as doves cooed in the branches above their heads. "Where did you want to stand?"

"Anywhere you like."

Sebastian's hands returned to her waist as he shuffled her around until they were facing the setting sun. "There. You're now in the spotlight, just as you should be. Are you ready? Say cheese."

Jess smiled into the camera. After a few seconds of silence, she looked up at Sebastian, meeting his eyes. Brown eyes that really were quite beautiful when you studied them closely. "Did you take it?"

"What? Oh, the photo?" He grinned. "Let's try it again."

This time Jess heard the click as he captured the moment. "Can I see?"

He held the phone in front of them. Jess wanted to be certain she didn't look like an idiot, and was surprised by how good the picture was of her. Sebastian had judged the lighting just right. The warm glow of the evening sun lit her face in a really flattering way. Then her eyes slid across the screen to check out her companion. It was a great photo of Darcy, or at least it would have been if he'd been looking at the camera. The photo had caught him staring at Jess; his expression softened by the hint of a smile.

"I'm not sure I ought to send that picture to my friend after all. It might not cheer him up as much as I thought. He'll be jealous as hell."

"It's a lovely photo."

"Did you want a copy? It's no problem. Here...send it to yourself." He grinned as he offered his phone.

Her hands shook slightly as she cradled the handset. "If you wanted my number you only had to ask." She added her details to his contacts then passed the phone back.

"You never know when it might come in handy." Sebastian pressed a few buttons. "There. The photo's on its way." As he slipped his phone into his back pocket he scanned the horizon, taking in a breath and letting it out as a long, slow sigh. "It's not that bad here, when you escape from that airless basement. I think I could get used to it. Maybe we should go for a walk before we head inside."

The idea of a long walk through a romantic summer garden with Darcy would have appealed to Jess at any time. The chance to get to know Sebastian better was just a bonus. "That would b—"

"Jess?" A voice came from behind them. Gareth stood at the top of the steps. "Laura sent me to fetch you. That period drama you wanted to watch will be starting in a few minutes."

Her interest in the sumptuous period romance had waned as soon as Sebastian suggested a better way to spend their evening, but she lost her chance to speak when her companion said, "Of course! I'd forgotten all about your film. We'd better go back inside before it starts."

Jessica's protests fell on ears that, if not deaf, were at least too gentlemanly to allow her to miss something she'd previously shown an interest in.


~~~~~



By Sunday morning, everyone was preparing in their own particular way for the day ahead. Some sat down to a hearty breakfast while others were too afflicted by first day nerves to even glance at the food on offer. Georgiana was convinced that the smell of the eggs and bacon Mr. Flint was wolfing down was making her queasy, while Mrs Gardiner couldn't bear to look at Mr. Gardiner's thick slabs of fried bread, or the fat congealing on his plate.

Jessica was more excited than nervous and joined Bingley and Jane who were having a small bowl of cereal and some fruit.

Most of the cast had their dog-eared scripts close to hand―lying on the table, sticking out of back pockets or bags, or rolled up like a fly swat―as they took the last opportunity to go over their lines; either in the privacy of their own heads, or in hushed whispers under their breath.

Mrs Reynolds, sitting in the corner of the room, was watching the others with a rare smile in her grey eyes. Offering her a cup of tea, Jessica asked if she was ready.

"Of course. You don't spend fifty years in this business without learning how to memorise your lines." She eased herself out of her chair, happy to be able to show off her abilities. Changing the tone of her voice slightly, taking on the humble accent suited to a housekeeper, she quoted a random line. "This room was recently redecorated on the orders of Mr. Darcy, after his sister took a particular liking to the room."

Jessica sat up, recognising her cue. "He is certainly a good brother."

"I expect that Miss Darcy will be delighted by the scheme, but that is always the way with him. Whatever can give his sister any pleasure is sure to be done in a moment. There is nothing he would not do for her."

Jess glanced back towards the table, where Darcy was distracting Georgiana from her nerves by cracking jokes with Mr. Gardiner. They were making a point of reassuring the young girl that all would be well. Yes, he was playing the part of a good brother, and she didn't think it was completely an act either.

After breakfast, it was time to don their costumes. Once dressed and ready, the troupe returned to the blue drawing room where Mandy gave them some last minute instructions before their first performance.

"As long as everyone sticks to the timetable it should work out just like our rehearsals yesterday. You all know when your lunch breaks are, and you must keep to the schedule. Tomorrow and Tuesday, during the Austen Convention, we'll be doing things slightly differently as our performances have to fit around the various talks and events. The organisers have asked if you can be available for photo opportunities between scenes, and if you can stay in character while you're interacting with the guests that would be even better."

"Hang on a minute! No one said anything about improvisations!"

Mandy smiled at Mr. Gardiner. "You don't have to if you'd rather not. I just thought it would be nice for people to feel like they're meeting the characters as they explore the house or gardens."

Mrs Gardiner raised her hand. "What if they ask us questions we don't know the answer to? I'm no historical expert."

"Just do your best." Their production assistant checked her watch. "I expect everyone to be ready and waiting for when the gates open at 10am, but before that I have a surprise for you all. Someone who would like to say hello."

On cue, the door opened and an unfamiliar woman entered the room. The neat, trim figure smiled at the assembled cast, as Mandy made the introductions. "Everyone, this is our generous hostess, Mrs Rivers-Smithe."

Her blonde hair, subtly coloured to camouflage the tell-tale wisps of silver, hung perfectly straight, with no strand out of place, while high cheekbones and tanned, unlined skin gave the impression of someone who could have been a catwalk model thirty years earlier. Yet Mrs Rivers-Smithe hadn't entirely been able to hold back time, as her hands bore wrinkles at odds with the rest of her appearance. With a double string of pearls lying against a pink cashmere twin set, Jessica guessed that Mrs Rivers-Smithe would not have felt out of place in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot.

"Oh, how lovely to see you together like this! You all look delightful in your costumes." Her precise, plummy accent spoke of boarding schools and debutantes as she moved around them, complimenting their clothes and accessories. She proved herself a fan of the book by unerringly identifying their characters and shared a few words with each of them, until only Elizabeth and Darcy remained.

Arriving in front of Jessica, she gave a wry smile. "Oh my, Miss Bennet! Well, you do look the part. I'm so glad. It would have been frightful to see Darcy making sheep's eyes at a plain Elizabeth, for although Jane is meant to be the beauty I never thought that Darcy would be so smitten as to fall for a dowdy girl! Yes, I think you will do very well indeed."

"Thank you for letting us perform in your beautiful home," Jess replied, resisting the urge to curtsy.

"You are very welcome, my dear. And here is Mr. Darcy, in all his glory. How delightful! I was concerned that the casting director could easily make a mess of casting Darcy, but I could not be proved more wrong. You are perfect! Isn't he just perfect?" she asked of Jessica, who nodded her agreement.

"The ladies who are organising the convention will be here later, and I must introduce you to them. I am sure they will be highly delighted with you." The glamorous owner of Exley Hall ran a pink painted fingernail down the lapel of Darcy's blue coat. "I would love the opportunity to discuss your thoughts on Mr. Darcy's character. Playing the part must give you a real idea of the man hiding beneath that starched shirt of propriety. It would be wonderful to explore the different facets of his character with you. I think I could learn a lot from your...unique viewpoint."

"Well, we really ought to get to our starting places," Mandy said, her voice overly bright. "The gates will be opening in a few minutes."

As Jessica accompanied her into the hallway she kept an ear on the conversation that continued behind them as Mrs Rivers-Smithe hung off Sebastian's arm.

The older woman's voice had dropped, sounding sultry and unctuous, like a bad impersonation of Marlene Dietrich. "Perhaps you could join me for dinner one evening. My husband will be away for a few days, so a little company would be very welcome. My apartment is only in the east wing, and we would be able to continue our discussion without interruption."

Jessica bit her lip. Surely Mrs Rivers-Smithe hadn't meant her invitation to sound as suggestive as it had. Remarks overheard in isolation, without looking at the speaker, could easily be taken out of context. Perhaps she'd imagined the kittenish purr that coloured the tone of the older woman's words.

Or maybe she flirted with every handsome young man she met?

Sebastian gave a brief, non-committal answer before they headed towards their starting positions. When Jess looked across at Darcy, all her questions were answered. He'd heard the not so subtle offer too.

There was no mistaking the miserable, hunted look in his eyes.




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Playing Around in Derbyshire - 5 & 6

Heather FAugust 16, 2018 08:27AM



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