Entering the thrumming heart of Meryton Assembly, Elizabeth Bennet’s pulse quickened with an intoxicating mix of anxiety and anticipation. The hall buzzed with the news that Netherfield Park’s newest residents would be attending, and Elizabeth found herself eagerly scanning the crowded room for unfamiliar faces.
Sir William Lucas, as ever, became the beacon of the ballroom the moment he entered. “Good evening, Mrs. Bennet, what a pleasure it is to see you and your charming daughters gracing this event,” he exclaimed, his eyes twinkling with the merriment of sociability as he navigated through the throng.
Mrs. Bennet, puffing up with pride like a peacock, clasped her hands together. “Sir William, we are always delighted by your kindness.”
He turned, some mischief in his smile. “Allow me the honor of introducing Mr. Charles Bingley of Netherfield Park, and his esteemed friend, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, late of Derbyshire.”
Mr. Bingley stepped forward with a gallant bow, the light of the chandeliers glinting off his fair hair. “Enchanted,” he beamed, eyes alighting on each Bennet sister in turn.
Mr. Darcy, trailing a step behind Bingley, managed a curt nod that suggested politeness was more an obligation than a pleasure.
“Miss Bennet, Miss Elizabeth, Miss Mary, Miss Catherine, Miss Lydia,” Sir Lucas carried on, oblivious to Mr. Darcy’s restraint. “May I be so bold as to predict that Mr. Bingley will soon be the most sought-after gentleman in Hertfordshire?”
Mrs. Bennet fluttered her fan faster, barely containing her agreement as Mr. Bingley’s amiable chuckle filled the momentary void left by Mr. Darcy’s silence.
“Indeed, Sir William,” Mr. Bingley replied, “if the company is always as lively and welcoming as tonight, I consider myself most fortunate indeed.”
As Sir William swelled with the success of his introductions, Mrs. Bennet’s matchmaking gears were turning at the sight of such eligible bachelors for her daughters. Meanwhile, Elizabeth observed the exchange with a growing sense of mischief and curiosity. Mr. Bingley radiated warmth, his bows filled with such charm it was nigh impossible not to beam back at him. Conversely, Mr. Darcy exuded a chill, as if an arctic gust had followed in his wake, those heavy brows casting shadows over brooding eyes.
“My dear Mr. Darcy,” Mrs. Bennet simpered, tilting her head just so to catch his gaze with what she fancied to be her most charming smile. “We are most honored by your presence. Might I hope we shall see you on the dance floor this evening?”
Mr. Darcy offered nothing more than a perfunctory acknowledgement, casting a fleeting glance that swept over Mrs. Bennet as though she were part of the furniture.
“Your estate in Derbyshire is spoken of so highly; I dare say you have had your share of grand balls there,” she continued undeterred, laughter forced and bright.
Still, Mr. Darcy said nothing. With a grace that bordered on the contemptuous, he simply nodded and turned away, the air around him seeming to ripple with his silent rebuke.
With a mouth agape, Mrs. Bennet stumbled for words, a flash of indignation painting her cheeks a bright, unflattering rouge. “The impertinence!” she exclaimed, her fan fluttering as though to dispel the sting of his disregard. “To ignore an invitation to converse—one from a lady, no less!”
“Mother,” Jane interjected with a gentle touch on Mrs. Bennet’s arm, aiming to soothe her ruffled feathers. “Perhaps Mr. Darcy is simply unaccustomed to our country manners.”
But Mrs. Bennet was not to be placated. “Unaccustomed or not, it is no excuse for such uncivil behavior!”
“Such insufferable pride,” Elizabeth murmured, barely concealing her vexation.
As Mrs. Bennet’s indignation hung palpable in the air, Mr. Bingley’s complexion shifted to a rosy hue. “Please accept my most sincere apologies, Mrs. Bennet,” Mr. Bingley stammered, earnest concern creasing his brow. “I assure you, Mr. Darcy means no offense. He is… well, he is simply unaccustomed to such lively gatherings.”
Elizabeth, her wit as sharp as ever, offered a playful smile to ease the tension. “Indeed, Mr. Bingley, we shall not take it to heart. Meryton’s social whirl must seem a hurricane to gentlemen accustomed to the more… serene festivities of Derbyshire.”
Mr. Bingley, heartened by Elizabeth’s good humor, met her jest with a chuckle. “A hurricane! Just so, Miss Elizabeth. But I find the robust winds here most refreshing! I should think Mr. Darcy might soon learn to appreciate them as well.”
“Perhaps he requires a more practiced guide to navigate this climate,” quipped Jane.
With a grateful and admiring smile, Mr. Bingley’s earlier embarrassment began to fade. “Indeed, Miss Bennet. And I can think of no better chaperones through the storm than you and your lovely sisters.”
However, Elizabeth found herself irritated by Mr. Darcy’s boorish behavior, a sharp sting of mortification difficult to cast aside. It appeared Mr. Darcy harbored no inclination to temper his manners for the sake of new acquaintances.
Consequently, Elizabeth found herself relegated to a bench beside Mary, the absence of dancing partners rendering her a mere observer. Her eyes, ever so observant, trailed after Mr. Bingley as he confidently approached his reserved friend.
“Darcy, you really ought to dance,” came Mr. Bingley’s cajoling voice.
With an air of hauteur, Mr. Darcy surveyed the assembly, his lips twisting. “There is not a woman here I would stand up with besides your sisters.”
Mr. Bingley’s gaze landed on Elizabeth and a smile tugged at his lips as he pointed her out to Mr. Darcy. “What about Miss Elizabeth? She is sitting out,” he said, trying to steer his friend towards a more sociable path.
Mr. Darcy followed his friend’s gesture and allowed his gaze to fall on Elizabeth. She was caught in conversation with her plain sister, their heads bowed together in shared confidences.
Yet, Mr. Darcy remained unmoved and he merely shrugged, “She is tolerable,” he conceded, “but not handsome enough to tempt me.”
Elizabeth’s cheeks flushed with a mix of embarrassment and anger as Mr. Darcy’s words cut through the hum of the ballroom. She excused herself with grace, though the slight stung deeply. Rising, she sought refuge by Charlotte Lucas’s side.
“Can you believe the arrogance?” Elizabeth shared in hushed but animated tones, a hand lightly brushing against her gown as if to sweep away the insult. “Mr. Darcy seems to think himself too good for our company.”
“His pride is monstrous, it’s true,” conceded Charlotte. “But let it not disturb your repose.”
Elizabeth squared her shoulders, resolution kindling within. “If only I could best this proud man at his own game.”
“And just how might you accomplish such a feat?”
Her lips curved in a burgeoning smile. “By proving I am quite handsome enough to tempt even the illustrious Mr. Darcy.”
Days had passed and Elizabeth Bennet found herself in the same circles as Mr. Darcy again. In the spirited hustle and bustle of Lucas Lodge, Elizabeth’s mind was occupied with thoughts of that certain gentleman and the challenge she had set for herself. Her fingers unconsciously toyed with a delicate chain bracelet – a cherished token from Aunt Gardiner.
As she pondered how to provoke Mr. Darcy without tarnishing her reputation, she absentmindedly pulled too hard, and the bracelet tumbled from her wrist. It clinked against the polished wood floor, prompting a sharp intake of breath from her. “Oh no, I’ve broken it!” she lamented.
A gentleman clad in dancing breeches halted beside the fallen bracelet. Elizabeth hesitantly looked up to see Mr. Darcy standing in front of her. Their eyes met—his expression unreadable, hers flushed with embarrassment. Silently, he picked up the delicate bracelet and, with a quiet “Miss Elizabeth,” offered it back to her.
Seizing the unexpected opportunity, Elizabeth’s instinct took over. “Mr. Darcy, could you assist me and fasten the clasp? My earlier attempts seem to have failed,” she asked, hope mingling with a hint of daring in her request.
Mr. Darcy paused, a moment of hesitation crossing his demeanor, but then he acquiesced, closing the distance between them. His nearness enveloped her, the scent of his cologne rich and grounding.
Elizabeth extended her arm. His fingers lightly grazed her skin as he deftly fastened the bracelet, sending a ripple of ticklish anticipation up her arm. She caught her breath, wondering if he could sense the quickening of her pulse. With gentle precision, he secured the clasp, leaving behind a tantalizing sensation that made her heart flutter.
Mr. Darcy’s hand on her wrist lingered just a moment longer than necessary. Each second pulsated with unspoken tension, a tangible current of desire coursing through the air between them. Then, as suddenly as the encounter began, he stepped back, his expression an unfathomable fortress once again. He offered a curt nod and continued past her, leaving her to wonder – had she truly tempted him, or had she instead fallen into her own snare?
As he walked away, Elizabeth couldn’t help but feel a shiver of longing ripple through her body. The memory of his touch lingered on her skin.
With a concerned gaze, Jane approached. “Are you quite well, Lizzy? Your cheeks are so flushed,” she inquired, her voice laced with softness.
Elizabeth forced a light laugh, brushing off her sister’s concern. “It’s merely the warmth of the room,” she replied, her words belied by the turmoil churning beneath her calm exterior.
As Jane nodded and returned her attention to the room, Elizabeth’s thoughts spiraled back to Mr. Darcy. She inwardly berated herself. Why did his mere presence unsettle her so? She chided her heart for betraying such vulnerability toward a man who had shown no indication of being similarly affected.
Around them, the lively chatter of the guests continued unabated, a stark contrast to Elizabeth’s inner turmoil. She stole a glance at Mr. Darcy, who stood conversing with Sir William Lucas—the picture of composure.
Darn her for allowing such a man to disrupt her equilibrium. Elizabeth resolved in that moment to regain control over her emotions. No gentleman, no matter how infuriatingly enigmatic, would best Elizabeth Bennet in this subtle game.
Later that evening, Elizabeth attempted her first foray into tempting Mr. Darcy. Weaving through the crowded room, her gaze sought him out, finding him standing solitary near a window, his tall figure silhouetted by the moonlight.
With a mix of anticipation she neared him, her plan to coquettishly verbally spar with Mr. Darcy. But she hit a snag when the hem of her gown caught under her satin slipper. Elizabeth lurched unsteadily, panic rising within her at the thought of crashing gracelessly to the floor. Instinctively, she reached out for stability, her hand closing firmly around Mr. Darcy’s forearm.
The solidity of his muscle under the fine fabric of his coat was undeniable. The room seemed to hold its breath, and for a moment, Elizabeth was acutely aware of every eye that witnessed her misstep.
Mr. Darcy turned sharply at her touch, his eyes widening in surprise. Elizabeth steadied herself, gripping his arm not just to save herself from a fall, but also clinging to the last shreds of her composure. She could feel the heat of his skin radiating through the layers between them.
“I beg your pardon,” she stammered, hastily releasing him once she found her balance. Her heart pounded against her ribs. Was it fear of falling or the jolt from their unexpected physical connection? She couldn’t tell.
“Miss Elizabeth, are you quite well?” Mr. Darcy’s voice was low and composed, but she could detect a faint trace of concern—or was it something else?
She met his gaze, searching for any sign of mockery or disdain. Instead, she found an unreadable mask that both intrigued and frustrated her. “Yes, thank you,” she replied with as much dignity as she could muster.
The murmur of conversation resumed around them as if nothing had happened, but for Elizabeth, everything had shifted slightly off its axis. Mr. Darcy regarded her for a moment longer before bowing slightly and excusing himself.
As he moved away, Elizabeth’s eyes followed him through the crowd, a mix of emotions churning within her—irritation at herself for her clumsiness, curiosity about the man who had just steadied her fall, and an undeniable twinge of attraction that she couldn’t quite suppress.
Charlotte Lucas approached Elizabeth with a bemused smile dancing on her lips, her gaze sparkling with unspoken amusement. “My dear Lizzy,” she began, her voice low enough for only Elizabeth to hear, “your methods of tempting Mr. Darcy are unique, are they not?”
Elizabeth’s cheeks flushed as she cast a furtive glance in Mr. Darcy’s direction. “Charlotte, I assure you, the breaking of my bracelet was entirely accidental,” she protested, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear.
“And your tumble into his arms?” Charlotte quirked an eyebrow, the corners of her mouth twitching with the effort to suppress her laughter.
“That was nothing more than a misstep,” Elizabeth replied, the warmth in her cheeks betraying her mortification. She glanced at the floorboards as if they were complicit in her clumsy encounter.
Charlotte leaned closer, her voice laced with playful conspiracy. “Perhaps these accidental temptations might serve you better than any planned attempts.”
Elizabeth couldn’t help the reluctant smile that tugged at her lips. Charlotte always had a way of turning discomfort into jest. “I would hardly call them temptations,” she said, shaking her head. Yet somewhere within, she wondered if there was truth to Charlotte’s words.
“I would wager he finds you more intriguing now than he would care to admit,” Charlotte whispered conspiratorially.
She turned to face her friend, skepticism written clear across her features. “Intriguing? I hope not. I am not interested in his regard, just to prove that he could be tempted by me.”
Her friend’s eyes held a knowing glint. “Men like Mr. Darcy do not easily forget a woman who lands quite literally in their arms—no matter how accidental.”
A laugh bubbled up from Elizabeth, unbidden. “I hope any more meetings with Mr. Darcy are simpler and less eventful. I do not want to stick in his memory—my only goal is to prove that he can be tempted by me, despite his airs.”
Mr. Darcy attended yet another social gathering at the Long’s, accompanying Mr. Bingley and his sisters. He found most such occasions monotonous. The only break in the tedium came from the unpredictable Bennet sisters—Lydia with her unabashed flirting with the officers or, inadvertently, Elizabeth Bennet and her unforeseen mishaps in proximity to himself.
Upon his arrival, Mr. Darcy’s gaze quickly located Elizabeth Bennet. She was resplendent in a sapphire gown that accentuated the deep luster of her eyes—eyes that rivaled the night sky in their brilliance.
Their eyes met across the room, her fleeting yet intense look halting him momentarily. The corners of her mouth curled into a suggestive smile that hinted at mischief before she melded back into the revolving mass of dancers.
Throughout the evening, Mr. Darcy felt the sting and charm of Elizabeth’s wit. She deftly engaged him, her playful comments skillfully slicing through his usual reserve.
“Come Mr. Darcy, you must have an opinion on the refreshments,” she prodded, eyes alight with mischief. “I dare you to confess that the punch is far too sweet.”
“Whether the punch is sweet or sour matters little, as I rarely imbibe,” he replied evenly, though he felt a glimmer of amusement at her teasing.
“Always so serious,” Elizabeth admonished with mock exasperation. “I shall have you laughing aloud by the end of the evening, just see if I do not.”
“I wish you the best of luck in that endeavor,” Mr. Darcy returned dryly, the corner of his mouth quirking upward despite himself.
Though he maintained his composure, Mr. Darcy sensed the subtle cracks forming in his reserved façade as their exchanges continued. He kept his words measured, yet knew a new lightness touched his countenance, betraying his reaction to her lively determination. Try as he might, even he could not remain unaffected by Miss Elizabeth’s spirited charm forever.
When she approached him near evening’s end, her eyes glittering playfully, she teased, “Mr. Darcy, you cut a rather sombre figure tonight. It’s almost as though you find no pleasure in the gathering.”
He met her eye, a corner of his mouth lifting instinctively. “Quite the contrary, Miss Elizabeth. I confess myself…poignantly intrigued by tonight’s spectacle.”
A ghost of a smile flitted across her features. “Intrigued, is it?” She stepped a breath’s distance closer. The delicate scent of lavender that clung to her sent his faculties tumbling into disarray.
“Precisely,” he affirmed, mustering every inch of breeding to remain steadfast under her searching gaze.
As the night wound to its inevitable close, it was Elizabeth’s laughter—and the beguiling vision of her—that Mr. Darcy carried to his chambers. As he laid his head down, it dawned upon him that Elizabeth’s actions were not mere jests but pointed temptations, gently coaxing him toward boundaries he’d steadfastly maintained.
And for the first time, Fitzwilliam Darcy questioned his desire to resist at all.
The final, edited version!
When the Netherfield party arrives to take up residence in the long-empty Netherfield Hall, rumors swirl that the estate is haunted. Skeptical Elizabeth Bennet laughs off the ghost stories, until a series of eerie events forces her and the aloof Mr. Darcy to confront the possibility of restless spirits stalking the halls.
As bizarre occurrences plague the old house, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are drawn together in the search for answers. Battling fears and prejudices, they forge an unlikely alliance that blossoms into mutual understanding and possibly something more. But not everyone is happy to welcome this connection.
Can Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy overcome the mysterious workings of Netherfield before their hopes for happiness are extinguished? Set during the Christmas season, Halloween JAFF puts a spooky twist on Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice characters in this suspenseful tale of ghostly happenings, romance, and the power of courage and love conquering all.
Pride and Prejudice and Phantasms is a slow burn romance between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet that is over 65,000 words and features hijinks, lighthearted spookiness, a flustered Caroline Bingley and happily ever after for ODC.