A/N – Wow, I'm honestly surprised at the amazing response I've gotten from you guys. My inbox has been blown up by all the reviews, favorites, and followers, and that was only one chapter. Thanks, guys!
I apologize is Darcy seems a little OOC. Someone asked me what Victoria looks like. The picture for the story is of Victoria, she is Lizzie's fraternal twin.
It was ever so much fun to be dancing. We all loved dancing, and it was something that most of us were good at, baring Mary from both statements.
This ball was no different. I danced every time I was asked, and my feet never grew tired; they never had and I don't believe they ever will. Jane used to say I was born to dance. Despite my lack of beauty, especially compared to Jane, I was never in want of a partner.
After yet another dance I collapsed into a seat next to Jane, Lizzie, and Lizzie's best friend Charlotte. "Having fun?" Jane laughed at me. "Oh, most definitely" I replied, laughing despite my out-of-breathe state.
"You never seem to be out of a partner" Charlotte remarked after I had calmed. "I'm just good for a dance" I replied. "Now, if every many in the room does not end the evening in love with you, my Jane, then I am no judge of beauty."
"Or men!" she laughed modestly.
"No, they are far too easy to judge" Elizabeth joked.
"After all, men need only three basic things to be happy; food, sleep, and entertainment!" I joined in, though I made sure my remark would go no further than my sisters.
"They're not all bad" Jane defended the opposite sex.
"Humorless poppycocks, in my limited experience" Lizzie decided.
"One of these days you two, someone will catch your eye, and then you'll have to watch your tongue!" Jane said, looking about the room.
Suddenly, the music stopped, as did the dance. I frowned and stood, trying to see what had stopped it.
Three imposing figures stood at the front of the room. Two men, and one woman. The first man was fairly tall, with orange hair and a slim figure, with a smile on his face.
The second man was taller, with neat, dark hair and broad shoulders. His face was blank, but still very striking.
The woman had the same red hair as the first man, and she wore an elegant white dress. Her nose was turned up, and her face was most definitely not set in a smile.
The host, Charlotte's father, greeted the three. "How good of you to come."
"So, which of the painted peacocks is our Mr. Bingley?" Lizzie asked Charlotte.
"Mr. Bingley is on the right, and the woman on the left is his sister." Charlotte explained.
"And the person with the quizzical brow?" I asked. He was indeed handsome, in a tall, dark way. Very handsome, I had a hard time taking my eyes away from his imposing figure.
"That is his good friend, Mr. Darcy" Charlotte explained.
"He looks miserable, poor soul" Lizzie laughed.
"Perhaps he is unused to being in the company of country-folk" I replied without removing my gaze. I had no idea why I was defending this perfect stranger.
"Miserable or not, he most certainly is not poor" Charlotte teased as the trio walked through the room, Mr. Darcy first, followed by the Bingleys'.
"Tell me" I heard Lizzie ask.
"£10,000 a year and he owns half of Derbyshire" Charlotte said.
I missed the rest of the conversation as Mr. Darcy met my gaze. My smile was long gone as we stared at one another. His steps did not falter, and it felt as though he was looking into my soul. I could do nothing but return the look.
"Tori? Victoria, are you alright?"
The sound of Jane's voice broke the trance, and I looked away. I quickly nodded and looked back to see he was still looking at me as they passed and we all curtsied. Once past me, he quickly looked away. His face was still impassively blank, and I could not tell anything about him.
Finally, they reached the other end of the room, and the music started again. Another boy, whose name I did not know, came up to me, and of course I accepted.
His eyes followed the brunette as she danced, through her head back wildly in laughter. Her eyes twinkled with humor, and her whole being seemed to light up. She was, or course, not the handsomest woman in the room, and most certainly did not have the social status required for his attention, but he could not help watching her laugh, despite her plainness.
When he had walked past, it was as if her eyes had enchanted his, he could not look away until he passed her. Her eyes… there was something about them… they were rather pretty, for one of her station.
I was in the middle of dancing when Mother grabbed my arm and pulled me away, towards my sisters.
Mother grabbed Lizzie, Jane, Charlotte, and myself and went to the trio, where Father met us with Mary. "Mr. Bingley, my eldest daughter you know," Charlotte curtsied, "Mrs. Bennet, Miss Jane Bennet, Elizabeth, Victoria, and Miss Mary Bennet" we all curtsied in turn.
"It is a pleasure" Mother smiled. "I have two others, but they're already dancing." I sighed, remembering that I had also been dancing, but didn't say anything.
"I'm delighted to make your acquaintance" Mr. Bingley said with a smile. It seemed as if he were the only one out of the three to smile.
"And may I introduce Mr. Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire." We all curtsied again, and I couldn't help but look at his face again, though I quickly looked away, hoping he hadn't noticed.
Eventually, Mother and Father wandered away. As did Sir William, and Charlotte. I couldn't help but cast longing looks at the dancing. "How do you like it here in Hertfordshire, Mr. Bingley?" Jane asked.
"Very much" Mr. Bingley smiled.
That reminded me… "The library at Netherfield, I've heard, is one of the finest in the country" I remarked.
"Yes, it fills me with guilt. I'm not a very good reader, you see" Mr. Bingley explained modestly and honestly, "I prefer being out of doors. I mean, I can read of course. And I'm not suggesting you can't read out of doors, of course…"
"You simply prefer more active activities than sitting still for long periods of time, like Jane" I attempted to save poor Mr. Bingley.
"Yes, yes, exactly. Do you not often read?" he asked Jane. I half listened to her answer as I glanced back at Mr. Darcy, and then again at the dancing, sighing with longing. Since I was standing with my sisters and Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy – sort of – no one had asked me to dance.
Mr. Bingley asked Jane to dance, or course, and did so want to join them out there, but no one asked, so I stayed with Elizabeth, Miss Bingley, and Mr. Darcy.
"I think I'll see what Charlotte is doing" Elizabeth murmured to me.
Before I could say a word, she left me with Mr. Darcy, and Miss Bingley.
"Do you dance, Mr. Darcy?" I asked, trying to solve some part of the mystery that is Mr. Darcy.
"Not if I can help it" he replied, though his tone was not hostile nor flat.
"May I ask why?" he seemed surprised by my question. "I apologize if my question is inappropriate" I quickly corrected myself, hoping I had not caused any offence.
"No, not at all. You must forgive me if I'd rather not answer, though" I nodded and turned away, tempting to think of anything at all to say. After failing to find a subject, I excused myself and went to find Charlotte and Lizzie.
"We are a long way from Grosvenor Square, are we not, Mr. Darcy?" Caroline remarked with a sneer, eyes trained on Miss Victoria Bennet.
Darcy remained silent, and finally was rid of her. Caroline may be of a higher social status, but he was not a woman of substance or intelligence.
After the dance was over, Mr. Bingley joined him on the edge of the room. I was sitting beneath some of the stands, avoiding people, and Elizabeth and Charlotte.
"I've never seen so many pretty girls in my life" Bingley said, slightly out of breath from dancing.
"You were dancing with perhaps the only handsome girl in the room" Darcy's remark hurt, especially with my fascination with him.
"She is the most beautiful creature I have ever beheld" I smiled slightly at Bingley's infatuation with Jane. She would be happy. "But her sisters Elizabeth and Victoria are very agreeable" Bingley added.
"They are perfectly tolerable I dare say, but not handsome enough to tempt me" I was hurt at his statement. I knew that I was not as beautiful as my sisters, but no girl liked to be called plain or unattractive.
"You'd better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles. You're wasting your time with me" Darcy said firmly.
After a few minutes to compose myself, I stepped out of my hiding place and was immediately asked to dance.
I slowly started enjoying myself again, and stopped thinking of Darcy's words. Though, I couldn't stop myself from glancing at him from time to time. I tried not to notice that he was watching the dancing carefully, and I did not analyze where he was watching.
Because, of course, he wouldn't be looking at me.
I couldn't keep from smiling as I watched Bingley and Jane watch each other. It was so adorable I almost couldn't stand it.
I was nearly out of breath when the dancing stopped, and we all applauded. It was hardly seconds later that Mother crowded Mr. Bingley. "Jane is a splendid dancer, is she not?"
"Oh, she is indeed" Bingley agreed immediately.
"You're friend, Miss Lucas, is a most amusing young woman" Mr. Bingley stated as he, Mr. Darcy, Miss Bingley, Jane, Mother, Lizzie, and I were gathered together.
"Oh, yes, I adore her" Lizzie agreed fondly.
"It is a pity she's not more handsome" Mother said.
"Mama!" I cried, shocked she would say such a thing in public.
"But Lizzie and Tori would never admit that she's plain" Mother continued. "Of course, it's my Jane who is considered the beauty of the county."
"No, Mama. Mama, please" Jane pleaded.
"Why? That, at least, is true. Jane, you are the most beautiful woman" I told her.
"When she was only fifteen there was a gentleman so much in love with her that I was sure he would make her an offer. However, he did write her some very pretty verses" I could see Jane's mortification, and so I said that first thing that came to mind.
"And that put paid to it. I wonder who first discovered the power of poetry in driving away love?" I interrupted mom hastily.
"I thought that poetry was the food of love?" Mr. Darcy interjected. It took me a moment to think of a response, so strong was my surprise at his voice.
"Of real love, it may. To write poetry, the writer must think, and think deeply, of his subject. If it is mere infatuation, poetry is the best to starve such infatuation. If the love if true, it could only cause the couple to fall even deeper" I rebutted.
"So, what do you recommend to encourage affection?" Darcy asked, his eyes never leaving my face. I was a little flustered at the attention, but finally decided to tease the stiff gentleman a bit. "Dancing."
Music started up again, and my attention was drawn to a young man asking for the next dance. I excused myself and quickly joined him on the dance floor.