As we all know, these are scary, disheartening, infuriating times. I won’t go into it here—we all know why things in our world are scary and disheartening and infuriating—but instead, I thought I would provide what I hope is a brief respite from all of it. While none of us should turn a blind eye to what is happening in the world, it’s quite alright to take a break from the noise and escape, just for a little while. With that in mind, I’m posting a short excerpt from an early chapter of Sanctuary, for your reading pleasure.
The following morning found the Darcys headed to Portland on the ferry. Jack was restless and eager to explore, and after spending the previous day in the house, Will was starting to feel antsy as well. “We need to get the lay of the land,” he told Jack.
He soon spotted Elizabeth Bennet sitting a few rows away from them. Her face was tilted up toward the sun, and for a long moment, his gaze was riveted to her. His eyes wandered over the line of her throat and down her arm to her hand where it was draped over the back of the seat next to her. Her hair was a dark, rich brown, spilling down in soft waves and shining brilliantly in the sun. His gaze traveled to her legs, clad in capris that bared most of her calves. She had them stretched out, ankles crossed and resting on the row of seats in front of her. They weren’t especially long, but they were shapely and not too muscular…
He suddenly realized what he was doing and dragged his eyes away, clearing his throat self-consciously as he turned to his son…who was also staring at Elizabeth.
“That’s the lady we know,” Jack said, lifting his arm to point her out. “Miss Bennet.”
Will reached up and quickly lowered his son’s hand. “Don’t point, it’s not polite.”
“We should say hi.”
“Um, not right now. She looks tired. Plus we really don’t know her well enough to go and talk to her.”
Jack stared into his father’s eyes. “I didn’t know any of the kids at the picnic but you told me to go ‘n talk to them anyway.”
Smarty pants. “That’s different. Kids are different from adults.”
“Well, it’s easier for kids.” Will hoped he sounded reasonable. “It’s important for you to meet other kids so you have friends to play with this summer and when you go to kindergarten.”
“But you gotta have friends too.”
Will chuckled. “I do. I met Mr. Bingley and his sister, and I know Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner too. And I talked to Sam’s parents when we were leaving the picnic.”
Jack glanced over to Elizabeth again. “How come Miss Bennet’s not your friend?”
“It’s not that she’s not my friend, I just haven’t talked to her much.” Because when I do, I end up behaving like an idiot.
“She’s sittin’ by herself. We can go talk to her right now.”
“No, we’ll stay here.” He glanced up to see how close they were to land. “It looks like we’ll be docking soon anyway, just another ten minutes or so.”
At that moment Elizabeth sat up and stretched, and Will watched as she turned in their direction. Jack noticed as well and immediately began waving.
“Hi Miss Bennet!”
Elizabeth was startled to see Jack Darcy waving to her from across the long expanse of seats between her and where he sat with his father. She waved back, a smile lighting her face. His father remained stone faced, leading her to believe he wasn’t quite as happy to see her.
She watched as Jack turned to his father and, after a short conversation with him, came walking across the boat to her.
“Hi Miss Bennet,” he said, smiling at her.
“Hi there, Jack. Where are you off to today?”
“We’re goin’ to the store to get some food and stuff. Where are you goin’?”
“I’m on my way to work.”
“Oh. Where do you work?”
“At the library.” Once again, she was struck by the beautiful blue shade of his eyes. “Do you have a car in Portland?”
He nodded. “My dad has a truck, but he said we’re gonna walk today ’cause we need to lay on the land.”
She was momentarily confused. “Oh, do you mean get the lay of the land?”
“Yeah, get the lay of the land,” he repeated. “It means we need to find everythin’ so we don’t get lost.”
“Right. Do you have a map?”
He shrugged. “I dunno.”
She reached into her backpack and pulled out an old, worn map. “Tell your dad he can use this one, it’s the best. I’ve written on it a little, but it’s still in good shape.”
Jack looked down at the map and then back up to her. “Can you show me where the library is?”
She looked over the map with him, showing him where the ferry would dock, where the library was and the location of the children’s museum. He pointed at certain things and asked what they were, and she was happy to explain as much as she could to him.
The ferry docked, and Will could see Jack wasn’t going to come back to him on his own, so he gave up waiting and walked over to where they sat. Elizabeth glanced up as he approached, and again he was struck by her simple beauty.
“Good morning,” she said to him with a smile.
“Good morning.” Her warm brown eyes were focused on him, and he was grateful when Jack pried his attention away from them.
“Dad, Miss Bennet is lettin’ us use her map. She said it’s the best,” he said happily, holding up the dog-eared paper.
“That’s not necessary, Jack,” Will answered. “We can buy one when we get off the boat.”
Jack frowned. “But she showed me everythin’ on this one, and now I know where we hafta go.”
“But she might need it.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “It’s fine. I haven’t used it in ages.”
Will turned to Jack. “I’m sure there’s a store near the dock that sells them.”
“Aw, c’mon Dad, I wanna use this one,” Jack pleaded. “We can give it back when we’re done.”
“Really, Mr. Darcy, it’s just a map,” Elizabeth interjected. “Please take it. You can return it if you want, but it’s really not necessary.”
He sighed, and her response—a subtle shake of her head and pursed lips—were proof she’d heard him.
“Okay, we’ll use the map,” he said, a bit more tersely than he intended. “Let’s go, Jack. Everyone’s getting off the ferry.” He ruffled his son’s hair and kept his eyes averted from Elizabeth’s.
“’K. Thanks for the map, Miss Bennet.” Jack smiled widely at his new friend.
Elizabeth bent toward him slightly. “You’re very welcome, Jack.” She glanced back up at Will. “Enjoy your day in Portland.”
He nodded. “Thank you.”
He herded Jack in front of him quickly, hoping to get a good distance ahead of her. The last thing he wanted was to end up walking with her through the streets of Portland.
I think I’ve dug this hole deep enough today.