In the Long’s ballroom, Elizabeth Bennet’s eyes, alight with a resolute twinkle, scanned the crowd for the imposing form of Mr. Darcy. His brooding countenance stood stark against the thrumming energy of the party, his silence a barrier that few dared to breach. She felt a twist of frustration knot in her stomach.
“Mr. Darcy is proving more obstinate than I had anticipated,” Elizabeth confessed to her confidante, Charlotte Lucas, as they watched from the sidelines.
Charlotte gave a soft laugh, “Did you expect him to fall at your feet after a few witty remarks and sly smiles?”
Elizabeth’s lips twitched into a rueful grin, “Perhaps not, but I did hope to crack that icy exterior.”
As the evening progressed, Elizabeth threw herself into the festivities with a newfound fervor. Her laughter echoed through the room, her lively conversation drawing a circle of admirers around her. When she took to the dance floor for a lively reel, her vivacity seemed to thrill the air around her.
Her dark eyes flickered towards Mr. Darcy every so often, hoping to catch a glimpse of his reaction. But each time she met his gaze, he looked away, his face unreadable. The knot in her stomach tightened.
Elizabeth stepped away from the dance floor, catching her breath and wiping away beads of perspiration from her brow. Her heart pounded with exertion and an emotion she wasn’t quite ready to admit – disappointment.
“I cannot fathom it,” she complained to Jane as they sought refuge in a quieter corner of the room. “Why does he remain so unmoved? It’s as if he is made of stone.”
Jane’s eyes were soft with understanding and perhaps a touch of sympathy as she listened to Elizabeth’s lamentations. Her own evening had been filled with nothing but warmth and kindness from Mr. Bingley, who had not left her side since the evening began. His attentiveness was a stark contrast to Mr. Darcy’s aloofness.
“Perhaps he is not as unaffected as you think, Lizzy,” Jane offered, her voice gentle. “People often hide their true feelings behind a facade.”
Elizabeth glanced at Jane, her brows furrowing. Could it be? Could Mr. Darcy be hiding something behind that cold exterior? The thought intrigued her and sparked a new resolve within her.
“Then I shall just have to try harder,” Elizabeth declared.
Elizabeth watched Mr. Darcy from across the room, where he stood in solitary grandeur. Her heart thrummed with a concoction of anticipation and apprehension. She was resolute in her desire to soften his unapproachable facade. With a careful pat to her gown and a gentle tuck of a stray curl, she drew a steadying breath and made her approach, her strategy taking shape in her mind.
“Mr. Darcy,” Elizabeth greeted, her smile bright. His piercing gaze captured hers, his expression as unreadable as an overcast sky.
“Miss Elizabeth,” he replied, his tone rendering the air as chill as an untouched snowfall. A distinct shiver coursed through her, but she fortified her resolve.
Observing the dancers with a casual remark, she tilted her head toward the floor. “It is such a spirited set, is it not?”
He followed her gaze, granting a mere nod. “Indeed, the enthusiasm is… palpable.”
The musicians began another lively tune, and Elizabeth felt her opportunity closing. But providence intervened; Mr. Bingley, ever the genial host, approached with a facetious complaint upon his lips. “Darcy, your neglect of the dance—unforgivable. Miss Elizabeth, may I request your assistance in persuading my friend here to partake in the merriment?”
Elizabeth’s pulse quickened; the indirect invitation was just what propriety dictated. “Mr. Bingley is quite right. One would not wish to see you miss such an enjoyment due to our poor company.”
Mr. Darcy’s gaze narrowed on her, a glimmer of curiosity threading through the frost. “Miss Elizabeth, you would find satisfaction in seeing me submit to the rigors of the dance?”
Her response was light, almost musical. “I confess it would be a most satisfying sight, to witness such a stoic gentleman amid the jovial fray.”
It was Mr. Bingley’s laughter that broke their impasse. “Capital! Darcy, now you have no choice but to oblige, lest you offend the lady’s keen sense of satisfaction.”
Mr. Darcy’s veneer of indifference wavered, and after a clipped bow toward Elizabeth, he extended his hand. A triumphant warmth ignited within her as she accepted.
Elizabeth’s heart thumped in time with the lively music as she took Mr. Darcy’s hand, holding his intense gaze. They joined the line of dancers, filled with a keen sense of expectation as the music began.
Each time she peered up at him, a slight smile played on her lips. The firm grip of his hand felt like a silent challenge. As they started to dance, moving together to the rhythm, every brush of their bodies sent a thrill through her. Elizabeth kept her eyes on his, feeling a warm blush spread across her cheeks with every close pass, heightening the unspoken excitement between them.
“Mr. Darcy,” she said during one such moment, “You have been awfully quiet this evening.”
He looked at her, his gaze sharp and penetrating. “I prefer to observe,” he replied, his voice steady despite the increasing tempo of the music.
“Observation is an admirable trait,” Elizabeth replied, adding a playful note to her voice, “but I do hope you’re not merely observing tonight.”
The corners of Mr. Darcy’s lips twitched slightly – an almost smile. He held her gaze for a moment longer before responding, “And what would you have me do instead, Miss Elizabeth?”
With a mischievous glint in her eyes and a sly smile teasing her lips, Elizabeth leaned closer. “Mr. Darcy, one ought to relish these moments,” she whispered, the playful challenge in her voice undeniable. “Dance as if we are alone under the moonlight, unobserved and unconstrained by the world around us.”
He raised an eyebrow at that but said nothing further.
As the dance progressed, Elizabeth allowed her fingertips to brush lightly against his hand and arm, her touch casual yet laden with intention, each contact sending an unspoken challenge that crackled between them with tension. Yet Mr. Darcy seemed impervious to her attempts at flirtation – his expression remained unreadable and his demeanor stoic.
Feeling slightly disheartened but not ready to admit defeat, Elizabeth decided to change tactics. She became more animated, laughing brightly at the jests of their fellow dancers and commenting on the lively atmosphere. All the while, she kept her gaze on Mr. Darcy, challenging him with her eyes to join in her merriment.
But his countenance remained unchanged. He watched her with a guarded expression, as if he was trying to decipher a puzzle.
As the dance came to an end, Elizabeth couldn’t help but feel a pang of disappointment. Despite her best efforts, Mr. Darcy seemed unaffected by her charm. As they parted ways with a polite bow and curtsy, she looked into his eyes one last time – searching for any sign of warmth or amusement.
But all she found was an indifference that left her feeling chilled and slightly foolish. Had she overestimated her ability to break through his frosty exterior?
Elizabeth Bennet, her spirits dampened by the recent encounter with Mr. Darcy, returned to the side of her mother, who was fluttering around like a peacock on parade. Mrs. Bennet, resplendent in a gown of loud prints and vibrant colors, beamed at Elizabeth with a satisfaction that was oblivious to the cold reception Elizabeth had received from Mr. Darcy.
“My dear Lizzy,” Mrs. Bennet gushed, her voice laced with anticipation. “You have certainly made an impression on Mr. Darcy tonight.”
Elizabeth bit back a sigh. Her mother’s interpretation of events was grossly inaccurate, but she saw no benefit in correcting her. “Yes, Mama,” she replied with forced cheerfulness.
“And Jane!” Mrs. Bennet’s voice took on an excited pitch as she turned her attention to her eldest daughter who was still engrossed in conversation with Mr. Bingley. “It is clear that she has captivated Mr. Bingley’s affections.”
Elizabeth couldn’t help but smile at the sight of Jane and Mr. Bingley together. Despite her own disappointment, she found solace in Jane’s happiness.
Mrs. Bennet clapped her hands together gleefully, drawing the attention of Mary, who had been absorbed in a book throughout the evening’s festivities.
“Mary!” Mrs. Bennet admonished, wagging a finger at her third daughter. “How do you expect to find a husband if you have your nose stuck in a book all evening?”
She looked up from her reading with a start, her eyes wide behind her spectacles. “I am not concerned with finding a husband at present, Mama,” she replied in a prim voice.
Mrs. Bennet looked horrified at this pronouncement and Elizabeth felt a pang of sympathy for Mary.
“Oh, Mary,” Mrs. Bennet wailed dramatically, wringing her hands together. “You must do your part for the family! Think of your poor father and his estate!”
Elizabeth watched the exchange with a sense of weary resignation. This was a common refrain in the Bennet household. With no sons to inherit, the Bennet estate would pass to a distant cousin upon Mr. Bennet’s death, leaving the daughters with little to no dowry.
She turned her gaze back to Mr. Darcy, who stood aloof from the rest of the guests, his dark eyes observing the crowd with an air of detachment. She couldn’t help but feel a flicker of disappointment as she watched him. She had hoped to prove him wrong. But her attempts had fallen flat and she was left feeling foolish and slightly bruised.
Elizabeth sighed and turned away, resolving to put Mr. Darcy out of her mind for the rest of the evening.
* * *
Mr. Darcy found himself sequestered in the corner of the room, observing the lively party from a safe distance. The flickering light from the chandeliers cast an inviting glow on the lively crowd. He had found himself once again the focus of Elizabeth Bennet’s flirtatious advances—a relentless pursuit that both vexed and intrigued him. Her concerted attention had left him off-balance, a sensation he found rather disconcerting.
Elizabeth had become an enigma to him. Her teasing smiles, her quick wit, her determined efforts to engage him in banter – all served to chip away at his usually steadfast composure. He was not accustomed to being the object of such playful torment and he found himself drawn to her spirit, despite his best efforts to remain aloof.
Every time their hands met in a dance or she brushed past him, her scent—a blend of lavender and something uniquely hers—lingered in his senses. It left him with an unsettling longing, an undercurrent of desire he fought hard to suppress.
He would glance at her across the room and find her eyes already on him, those expressive dark eyes full of laughter and life. And when she’d catch his gaze, she’d flutter her lashes playfully and gift him one of her dazzling smiles that lit up her face.
Those moments of connection unsettled him deeply. The memory of her touch was etched into his skin—a phantom sensation that stirred a warmth within him he could hardly bear.
Her presence gnawed at his resolve, each encounter a test of his self-control. He was Fitzwilliam Darcy—reserved, discerning, aloof—yet in her presence, he felt dangerously close to betraying these very traits that defined him.
His mind kept replaying their interactions—the sound of her laughter, the sparkle in her eyes when she teased him. It was a sweet torment that gnawed at his insides. He could not ignore the burgeoning realization that Elizabeth Bennet, with her vivacious spirit and lively wit, was the most handsome woman he had ever met.
And yet, he kept his feelings concealed behind a veneer of indifference. His pride would not allow him to admit—even to himself—that he was tempted. That he was being drawn to her in a way he had never experienced before.
But for now, Mr. Darcy found relief in her absence. The respite allowed him to collect his thoughts and regain his composure. It gave him the space to reaffirm his resolve, to steel himself against the allure of Elizabeth Bennet.
Yet even as he sought solace in solitude, a part of him yearned for her company—for the sound of her laughter, for her teasing words, for the warmth of her hand in his. His heart seemed to have a mind of its own—one that was slowly but surely succumbing to the charm of Elizabeth Bennet.
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.