L.L. Diamond

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Hi, everyone! I hope you’re ready for Chapter 2. I know I’m ready to share it with you. If you haven’t read chapter 1, read that here. And for those of you who have, let’s get to Chapter 2. We have a gala to attend!

Chapter 2

The ballroom at Seven Springs Ranch glittered with fairy lights and greenery that spilled out onto the large stone patio where guests could dance under the giant Texas sky. Waiters clad in their penguin suits browsed through the crowd, their trays laden with hors d’oeuvres and champagne, while guests milled around the room drinking expensive wine, liquor, and fancy cocktails. The scene could be straight out of a romance novel, except Lizzy was with her brother. What a way to kill the perfect setting for a fantasy!

She squeezed Chase’s arm. “Relax. The Lucases won’t cause a scene.” Every year, the committee for the charity gala was headed by Lindsey “Lady” Lucas, local socialite extraordinaire and the woman who gave birth to Chase. She and her husband Edgar, the former mayor of Longbourn, enjoyed their status and the friends their positions had provided them. They were so pretentious. At one time, the Bennets and the Lucases had been as tight as two families could be—until Chase came out. Now, the two families each pretended the other didn’t exist.

“No, I know.” He laughed when she adjusted the narrow straps of her gown. “I do not miss dresses.”

Lizzy gave a slight snort. “You haven’t worn a dress since you were eight years old, and Mrs. Lucas forced you.”

“Regardless, just knowing I will never have to squeeze myself into one again makes my heart content.” He squinted and pointed to the other side of the room. “Lizzy, is that Momma? I didn’t think they were coming.” The music faded before the next song, allowing the never quiet voice of Gracie Bennet to carry over the crowd. Her father had said they’d planned on spending the evening at home. What could’ve changed their mind?

“I didn’t think they’d be here.”

“I know. He’s always despised breaking out the tuxedo for events like this.” He tugged her down the entry steps and into the throng, squeezing them between groups of people who chatted among themselves. Their mother’s heavily accented drawl could be heard over the music. Her mother possessed one volume—loud. It made Lizzy cringe.

“I’ve heard he’s wealthy. He bought the old Saddler place off Highway 46, just down the creek from the stables, so he must have a healthy bank account if he could afford all that land. It’s a couple hundred acres as I recall. Perhaps I can persuade Eli to take Katy or Lydia over there to meet him.”

Chase held up an arm. “Momma!”

With a squeal, their mother raised her hands and danced over to them. “There you are! Your father said you were coming, but I was beginning to think he was lying.” She peered over her shoulder to their father, who sat in the corner with a crystal tumbler of what could only be bourbon at his lips. Their mother faced them once again, grabbed Lizzy’s hands, and lifted her arms wide, gazing up and down at her strappy, fitted emerald gown. “That’s a pretty dress. Isn’t it the same one you wore last year?”

Lizzy held in a large sigh. Her mother would notice. She didn’t hate dressing up, but she refused to purchase a new gown every year when it would never be worn more than once. Plus, who was there to impress in Longbourn? It was always the same small town and the same dull men. “Yes, Momma, I wore it last year.”

“Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter,” said her mother. “But you!” She cradled Chase’s cheeks in her palms. “You look so handsome in your tux! Did you get a haircut?” She primped a few spots of Chase’s hair. As she took him by the shoulders, Lizzy bit her lips to keep from laughing. “Such a handsome boy! Come with me to talk to Henrietta Smith. I was just telling her the other day how she should have you examine her guinea pig. She keeps complaining that he’s losing hair or some such nonsense. I told her you’d know exactly what was wrong with him.”

Chase turned to Lizzy with wide eyes as their mother began to haul him off. “Save me!” he mouthed. Lizzy couldn’t help herself. She smiled and gave a tiny wave, thankful that Chase was her mother’s preferred victim.

She sat in the chair next to her father, making sure her posture was perfect and crossing her legs. Chase was right. Dresses could be a pain! “I thought you weren’t coming.”

He grimaced and stared into his drink. “I thought I’d managed to avoid tonight. I purchased two tickets and gave them to you and Chase, but it seems your mother refuses to take no for an answer. You know ‘Lady’ Lucas can’t outdo her. She placed one very well-timed phone call, and the next thing I knew, she had two brand spanking new tickets. She also had my tuxedo cleaned and pressed. I swear, Lizzy, I’m going to break out the horse tranquilizer next year. I know it’s a good cause, but I absolutely refuse to get all trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Heck, I’d rather volunteer full-time treating their rescues than deal with this bullshit.

“Look at her.” Her father jerked his chin in his wife’s direction. Momma’s mouth moved a mile a minute while she continued to primp and preen on Chase, who ducked and weaved to avoid her. “Do you think she’ll ever stop treating him like a little boy?”

Good grief, she hoped not! It was too much fun to watch. “You know how much she wanted a son. If adopting Chase makes her act as if she won the lottery, I say leave her alone. He’s known Momma since forever, and he was also the one who brought you the adoption paperwork on his eighteenth birthday. He joined this family with his eyes and ears wide open. It was his choice.”

Her father gave a one-shouldered shrug. “I suppose you’re right.”

She scanned the room and leaned a bit closer to her father. “Dad, why don’t you go talk to some friends? Isn’t that Mr. Herff over by the fountain?”

Her father patted her hand and took a sip of his drink. “I will eventually. Let an old man sulk and fume for a while first, will ya?” He gave her a nudge to the shoulder. “Now you go have some fun. You don’t want to be stuck with an old curmudgeon like me for the entire night.” He pointed his knobby finger to a copse of oak trees along one corner of the patio. “Jane and Charlie are holed up over there. You ought to go say ‘hi.’”

She nodded and started to rise, then stopped. “We need to talk about Lydia at some point.” He had to see reason sooner or later. Lydia needed to find a different job.

“Mary told me she’s become impossible. Put an ad in the paper for a new front desk clerk. If you want Lydia to continue until you’ve hired someone, I’ll make sure she goes to work every day.”

Wow! That’d been so much easier than she’d expected. “We have Chelsea full-time, and Katy for some afternoons and Saturdays. I think we can manage until we find someone to fill Lydia’s spot—if we even decide we want someone else.” 

He tipped his glass in her direction. “I’ll let her know in the morning. I doubt she’ll be too torn up about it, at least until I tell her she has to start searching for another job.”

Lizzy patted his hand, rose, and tapped Chase on the shoulder as she passed him on her way to the patio. Poor guy! Her mother would parade him around to every single girl in the room if he let her.

When she stepped onto the patio, the cool night air caressed her bare shoulders as she moved closer to a cluster of young live oaks bedecked in twinkling fairy lights. The night was clear and the stars shone in the black sky. It was magical. She could sit out here all evening.

Charlie and Jane stood to one side, and as she drew closer, the man standing with them came into better focus. Shenarrowed her eyes. He was tall, had dark hair, and when he turned and their gazes met, she gasped and fought the urge to do an immediate one-eighty and run right back inside. How could she forget those whiskey eyes?

Jane looked over her shoulder and smiled. “Lizzy, you’re finally here!” She waved Lizzy closer. “Come meet Charlie’s friend from Harvard.”

Great! Mr. Arsy Darcy was friends with Charlie—her brother-in-law Charlie. Had he been at the wedding? If he had, how had she not noticed or even remembered? The wedding had only been six months ago. There was no way she’d have forgotten that handsome face. When she reached Jane’s side, Charlie leaned in to give her a peck on the cheek.

“William Darcy, this is my younger sister, Lizzy,” said Jane. “Lizzy’s a veterinarian with my brother, Chase, at the family clinic. William and Charlie went to law school together.”

Charlie straightened and put his arm back around Jane. “Only William returned to the family business, and I returned to Texas. I hadn’t heard hide nor hair of him until he called to say he was interested in moving to the area and asked if I knew any good ranches for sale.” Charlie made big bucks in property law. After Chase, Jane was Momma’s favorite. She’d earned Gracie Bennet’s undying admiration for marrying a man with money. Mary was the forgotten child, Katy was fighting for recognition, Lydia was the baby, and then there was Lizzy. Well, she could never do anything right.

“Dr. Bennet,” said Mr. Darcy. “How are you?”

“I’m fine, thank you.” She worked to keep her tone as pleasant as she could. “How’s Skylla?”

“You’ve met?” Charlie glanced back and forth between them.

“Yes, Mr. Darcy brought his horse into the clinic.”

“Awesome!” The grin on Charlie’s face could’ve lit Houston, it was so bright. “A party is always better when people know each other.” He clasped his hands together. “I believe I’m ready for a drink. Lizzy, do you want something?”

“A glass of cabernet, please.” She’d need it standing next to Mr. Darcy!

“Darce?”

His eyebrows dipped a bit in the middle. “I’d like a Scotch if you don’t mind.”

“I know it’s been a while, but Aberlour?” asked Charlie.

Mr. Darcy let a small smile cross his lips. “Good memory.” 

Charlie stepped in front of Jane and kissed her on the cheek. “Don’t worry, hon, I’ve got you covered.” They were so adorable together. The two of them were both cheerful and kind, and the love between them was obvious in their little shared looks and the way they spoke to each other. She wished for the same thing one day. If only she could find the right man.

“He’s about the same.”

She started and stared at Mr. Darcy. Had he spoken? “I’m sorry. Did you say something?”

He shoved his hands into his pants pockets, his shoulders hunching forward. Why did the man always appear so awkward? “Skylla. He’s about the same. I thought I’d bring him by this week for those tests.”

Lizzy nodded and tamped down that part of her that wanted to evil laugh and cry victory. Had he taken his horse to Hillside or simply come to his senses? “I’ll be happy to treat him. If you call first thing Monday morning, Chelsea can make an appointment.”

Her sister watched them, her silky blonde hair waving back and forth as she followed the conversation. “I hope it’s nothing serious.”

“No, nothing serious,” said Lizzy. Mr. Darcy’s stern eyes rested on her and never seemed to move. Had she said something wrong, or was he judging her? She itched to shift on her feet, more so than when she examined his horse.

His gaze flitted to Jane for a moment but returned to her. “Actually, the stables on my property are a mess. Until I have them renovated, I’m boarding the horses I brought with me at that stable near your office.”

“Up the hill?”

“Yes, that’s the one.”

Jane gave a surprised inhale. “That stable belongs to my father. Lizzy lives in the large two-story house between the clinic and the barn. We grew up there—”

“Until Momma decided she wanted to live closer to town and not where she complained about smelling horse manure every day.”

“Thanks for saving me from Momma.” Lizzy bit her cheek and smiled at Chase, who approached with his favorite Guinness in one hand and her wine in the other. “I’m pretty sure Harriet is bringing her guinea pig into the clinic on Monday.”

“Is there something wrong with him?”

After a quick kiss to Jane’s cheek, Chase shrugged and held out a hand. “Chase Bennet.”

Mr. Darcy shook her brother’s hand. “William Darcy.”

Her brother’s eyes gave a slight flare before they narrowed somewhat. “William Darcy?” He peeked over at Lizzy then almost let a smile slip before he smothered it. Crap! What was he up to? “Did you bring a horse into the clinic a week ago? Sixteen and a half hand bay gelding?”

His eyes shifted to her for a moment. “Yes, he’s been limping.”

Lizzy took a gulp from her wine. If Chase started, she’d have to dig her heel into his foot! “I didn’t know you saw Mr. Darcy’s horse?” she said to the mischievous imp. 

“I caught a glimpse of them when I called Deputy Collins back with his dog. Have you seen him yet this evening? I believe he’s talking to Christina Murphy at the bar.” He pointed inside with a grin.

That was it! She faked an innocent expression and took a sip of wine while the pointy heel of her silver, strappy stiletto pressed into the top of Chase’s black dress shoe. At his light laugh, she rolled her eyes and caught the steady gaze of Mr. Darcy, staring her down once again. Ugh! Seriously? Was a boob hanging out or had she spilled something on her dress? She peered down, but nothing was abnormally exposed. Didn’t the man have something better to do than watch her as if he were at a movie with a bowl of popcorn in his lap?

Without warning, Chase’s foot slipped from beneath hers, and she lost her balance.

“Lizzy!” said Jane.

“I’m fine!” A hand under her arm had saved her from making an idiot of herself, but when she straightened, her brother’s wasn’t the hand that saved the day. Instead, the penetrating eyes of Mr. Darcy were right in front of her. “Thank you.” She glanced down at her dress. Her wine hadn’t seemed to have stained the silky fabric, despite the liquid sloshing over the rim and soaking her fingers.

“Here.” Mr. Darcy offered a scrap of white cloth. Was that a handkerchief? Did men under sixty still use those?

Charlie laughed as he joined them. “You don’t still carry those, do you?”

“You never know when you may need one.”

With a shake of her wrist, Lizzy kept the damp hand away from her dress. “Thank you, but the wine will stain it. I’m sure there are napkins on one of the tables.”

He wrapped the fabric around her hand. “I’m not concerned if it’s ruined. By the time you go hunting around for something else, the wine could stain your gown.”

“Thank you.” How many times had she thanked him? Was that all she could say tonight? He took her glass while she wiped the wine from her fingers. Where had Chase gone? When she glanced around the patio, she frowned at the sight of her brother, who stood near the doors with Maria Lucas. Lizzy bit her cheek.

“Ex-girlfriend?”

Lizzy whirled back around and shook her head. “No, his biological sister. It’s a long story. I just don’t want to see him hurt.” Chase had been through enough.

Mr. Darcy nodded as he returned her wine, and she took a sizeable drink. If she was going to be forced to socialize with Mr. Darcy, she was going to need it!

12 thoughts on “Chapter 2 – That Perfect Someone

  1. Tiffany M says:

    Loved the first chapter you read at the JAFF W/R Get Together, I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book that comes out soon! I don’t see very many moderns lately, so I am looking forward to yours! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It’s gone through editing now, but still the same in essentials. I’m thrilled you’re looking forward to it! 12 more days!

      Like

  2. Glynis says:

    Ooooh! I have a feeling that Will Darcy just might be interested in Elizabeth Bennet? 🤔😉 at least I certainly hope he is 🤞🏻. I hope Lydia finds a job far away from the clinic and that she doesn’t cause problems!
    Maybe Elizabeth will cure Darcy’s horse and earn his undying gratitude? Well one can only hope! More please! 🥰🥰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe…maybe not. LOL! Thanks, Glynis!

      Like

  3. Marie H says:

    Soooo good!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wyndwhyspyr says:

    Ooooh this is going to be a wild ride.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope so! Thanks!

      Like

  5. Megan says:

    Love it! Can’t wait to read the whole thing!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay! Thanks, Megan!

      Like

  6. suzanlauder says:

    Things are deeper than we know, from the way E&D are acting. Looking forward to the release! Thanks, Leslie!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s possible 🙂 Thanks, Suzan!

      Like

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