“An Unexpected Harvest”

Happy Friday and welcome back! Just a reminder to you, dear reader, that these early chapters haven’t been professionally edited, and they contain mature content (mostly a little bit of salty language).

Chapter 3

Sunday, December 12th 

Elizabeth woke slowly the morning after the party, but it didn’t take long before memories of the previous night’s events—and especially Farmer Darcy’s parting words—firmly yanked her from her haze of sleep. 

She’d been able to avoid conversation about him on the drive home thanks to Charlie; he’d kissed Jane goodnight, and although it had only been a kiss on the cheek, Jane was happy to discuss the chaste but affectionate gesture for the entire drive back to Longbourn.

Now, as Elizabeth made her way downstairs and into the kitchen, she fervently hoped her sister had forgotten all about Farmer Darcy whispering quietly in her ear.

“Good morning, Lizzy.”

“Morning.” Elizabeth headed straight for the coffee maker and poured a cup, and then peered at the gooey batter Jane was mixing in a large bowl. “Whatcha making?”

“Honey blueberry blintzes, but they won’t be ready for a while.”

Elizabeth sat down at the breakfast nook and closed her eyes, inhaling the rich scent of her coffee. “That’s okay, they sound like they’re worth waiting for.”

“We’ll see. I’ve never made them before, so you’re my guinea pig.”

Elizabeth’s eyes flew open at the sound of the spoon clattering against the bowl and she cringed, knowing what was coming next.

“Lizzy, I completely forgot to ask you! What did Will say to you last night? You looked like you were about to keel over. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you blush like that before.”

Elizabeth groaned and dropped her head onto the table. “Oh, that’s perfect. Great.”

“What did he say?”

“It was nothing. Forget it.” 

“He wasn’t being rude or anything, was he?”

“He wasn’t being rude.” That was all me.

“Was he hitting on you?”

Elizabeth laughed and lifted her head. “He definitely wasn’t doing that.”

“Well what, then? Whatever he said certainly got a reaction out of you.”

Elizabeth sighed and then caved, telling Jane what happened—or at least, what she thought had happened. Upon finishing the story she gazed expectantly at her sister—who burst out laughing.

“Jane! It’s not funny!”

“Yes it is, it’s priceless! Karma’s a bitch, isn’t it?” Jane turned back to her batter, her shoulders shaking.  

“I can’t believe you find this entertaining.”

“How can you not find it entertaining? I mean, you didn’t seem to care very much about becoming friends with anyone while you’re here, so…”

Elizabeth’s mouth dropped open. “I didn’t care about becoming friends with anyone, but I didn’t want to offend anyone either.”

“I guess you should have thought about that before you spouted off about farmers and their dirty hands and shitty boots.” Jane placed the batter into the refrigerator and wiped her hands on a towel. “I’m sorry. I know you’re embarrassed, but you really have to see the humor in it.”

“I fail to see the humor in any of it. He probably thinks I’m a horrible bitch—”

“Well, it was pretty horrible for you to say all that.”

“Okay, can you shut it for a minute? I’m trying to make myself feel better.”

“By all means, go right ahead.”

“It seemed like we were getting along fine before that. He obviously decided to have a little fun at my expense. If he was so offended he should have just ignored me.”

“Come on, admit it. You were being rude and judgmental and you got caught. He was having fun, but you kind of deserved it.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes and slid down in her seat. “Some big sister you are. Thanks for your unwavering support.”

“It’s just a little misunderstanding, it’s not a big deal. And you’ll have to get over it eventually, because if you’re going to stay with me for the next few weeks, you’ll probably see Will occasionally. Charlie already mentioned all of us going out together soon.”

“No. I won’t go.”

“Coward.”

“Yup, that’s me. Hiding in the corner from mean Farmer Darcy.”

“He’s not mean, he’s nice. If he’s been lifelong friends with Charlie, he must be. They’re very tight. And in case you didn’t notice, he’s pretty hot.”

Elizabeth thought of his deep brown eyes, so close to hers when he’d delivered his parting words, and felt her cheeks warm. “I didn’t notice that. And you shouldn’t notice it either!”

“Why can’t I notice? I’m not blind, you know.”

“You have Charlie to work on.”

Jane froze. “Oh, no… If Will heard you say all that stuff about him, then he probably heard you accuse me of trying to fix you two up…which means he probably heard me say I wanted to hook up with Charlie.”

“Well good. I hope he did hear it and I hope he tells Charlie. Maybe it’ll give Charlie a little push in the right direction.”

Jane gnawed her bottom lip. “You think?”

“Yes! He kissed you, right? That’s something.” Elizabeth was more than happy to turn the conversation back to the subject of Charlie Bingley and his intentions.

Jane grinned. “He did. Maybe it’s a start.”

***

“I don’t believe you,” Charles said. “There’s no way Jane’s sister said all that.”

“Oh, she said it,” Will responded. “She thinks we’re beneath her. Well, she thinks farmers are beneath her. I’m not so sure about construction workers. Hand me the cutter torch, would you?”

The two men stood in Pemberley’s garage on Sunday morning. Charles had come over early, ostensibly to bring Will a coffee and help with the tractor repairs, but Will knew he had an ulterior motive.

Charles passed him the torch and they were quiet while Will fired it up and carefully expanded some rusted bolts. When he was finished, he slid the safety glasses up onto his head and smiled.

“And that’s not all she said. I guess Elizabeth got it into her head that you and Jane were trying to fix her up with me—which is a joke—and Jane told her she’d definitely work on hooking up with you before she tried to fix up her sister.”

Charles’s eyebrows rose. “She said that?”

“I heard her. Believe me, I heard everything.”

“Hm.”

Will picked up his coffee and took a sip. “Is that all you have to say?”

“I’m thinking.”

Will rolled his eyes. “Don’t hurt yourself. What do you need to think about? You said she’s the whole package, and she’s obviously into you.”

“But—”

“But what?” Will studied his friend’s pained expression. “You know, just for the record…I don’t think she’s anything like that bitch you were engaged to.”

“I know she isn’t.”

“Then why are you dragging your feet?”

“I’m just–I’m trying to play it cool.”

“There’s a difference between playing it cool and not playing it at all. Let her know you’re interested. Kiss her.”

“I did, I—”

“Not on the cheek! What are you, ten? You kissed her like you kiss your sister. You need to kiss her like I’ve kissed your sister.”

“Shut up. Don’t start.”

“I’m not starting anything, but at least you know what I’m talking about.” Will sighed. “Look, I know Maggie screwed you over. I know all that shit she told you is stuck in your head, but she was wrong. You need to let it go.”

“It’s easy for you to say she was wrong, but it’s hard for me to believe it. What if I was too needy or whatever the hell she said? Do you know how shitty it felt to be told I was too nice to her? Too emotionally available?” He laughed and his voice grew louder. “Pardon me, I thought I was supposed to be like that with the woman who said she’d marry me and spend the rest of her life with me. Isn’t that what women claim they want in all those stupid magazines?”

“Um, I guess. I don’t know. I don’t–I don’t read them.”

Charles shook his head and laughed. “Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe we should.”

“No thanks, I’ll leave that to my mother. Hey, what about that? You could always ask her what women want. She’ll give you a whole damn list.”

“Well…we know some of them don’t want farmers, anyway.”

Will smiled widely. “City girls never did have very good taste.”

***

Thursday, December 16th 

Elizabeth hummed softly to the music on the radio as she drove along the quiet roads of West Stockbridge. She passed several large homes and gated neighborhoods, most of which hadn’t existed when she was growing up, and it struck her that every house seemed more extravagant than the one before it.

Longbourn had once been the largest house in town and had stood as an obvious sign of the Bennets’ wealth, but it had always felt too big for their small family. It still felt that way, but it was nothing compared to some of the homes she was looking at now.

As she neared Stockbridge, the trophy homes and massive landscaped yards gave way to smaller houses crowded together in clusters, their chimneys belching white smoke into the crisp morning air. Farther beyond those tightly packed neighborhoods stretched acres and acres of open land belonging to farms so big, their houses and barns couldn’t be seen from the road.

She was on her way to Daily Bread, her sister’s favorite bakery. Jane swore by their scones and breads, and had talked to the owner about forming a business arrangement when she was ready to open Longbourn.

Jane insisted Elizabeth try the scones today and so here she was, driving to the bakery at nine in the morning while Jane disappeared into the basement to finish distressing one of Longbourn’s bedroom dressers. Whatever that means.

She didn’t mind running the errand; it was nice to get out and have a little time alone. She’d already gone for a walk in the woods, and it felt wonderful to be out in the fresh mountain air, inhaling the scent of snow and pine. As much as she loved the city, there was something about walking in the woods, absorbing the peace and stillness, that was good for the soul.

It’s why so many people put down roots and stay here for good. West Stockbridge was truly a beautiful place, especially on days like today, with the sun shining brightly in the crystal clear blue sky. There was nothing quite like it and if there was, she wasn’t going to find it in Boston.

Jane will be happy here. She’d been resigned to moving across the country to secure her “fantastic job,” but she’d never been truly happy in California; she was a New England girl, through and through.

But Elizabeth had been eager to leave. Her father had always pushed her to do so, telling her there was nothing for her here in the wilds of western Massachusetts, and she was glad for it. She would have left Massachusetts in a heartbeat as well, if the right job had come along. Alas, the right job had come along, but instead of taking her to parts unknown, it kept her situated comfortably in Boston.

Up ahead, a large sign marked the entrance of a long, winding driveway, and she did a double-take when she saw Pemberley Farms carved into the worn wood. Her eyes lit on a pickup truck about to pull out of the driveway, and when saw the dark haired man behind the wheel she sped up, putting as much distance as possible between her and the truck.

Four days had passed since the barn dance, and she was beginning to think she’d be able to escape a face-to-face encounter with Farmer Darcy. Charlie had stopped by Longbourn twice in those four days, and while he was friendly, he still seemed slightly reserved. More than once Elizabeth had caught him staring at her as if he was mulling something over, but it might have been her imagination. Or paranoia.

She knew that if Charlie and Farmer Darcy were indeed “besties,” then Farmer Darcy had probably told Charlie everything he’d overheard at the party. It didn’t put her in a very flattering light.

Kit had laughed hysterically when Elizabeth had relayed the story over the phone yesterday. Why did her sister and her best friend think it was such a hoot she’d made a complete fool of herself? Karma’s a bitch, Kit said—which was exactly what Jane had said. The only difference was that Kit understood where Elizabeth’s comments stemmed from, whereas Jane thought Elizabeth was being offensive and critical.

Elizabeth tried to defend herself to Jane by saying he had no right listening in on their private conversation, but Jane had scoffed and said that if she was in close enough proximity to hear two people talking about her, she’d sure as hell stick around to hear what they had to say. Elizabeth confessed she’d do the same, and eventually admitted to Jane that she felt badly about the whole thing.

But ultimately, none of it mattered. What did she care if one man, one unimportant farmer, thought poorly of her? She might run into him now and again, but she wouldn’t be here forever. In a few weeks she’d be back in Boston, and he and his warm brown eyes and knowing smirk would be forgotten.

***

Will parked behind Daily Bread and glanced at his watch. He didn’t really have time to pick up coffee and a scone for his father, as he had a meeting in less than an hour with a rep from Commonwealth Quality, but he’d do it anyway. And after that meeting, he had another at the food bank to discuss the holiday food drive.

He’d devoted a substantial amount of his time over the past five years to achieving two goals, and this meeting today with the CQ rep would help him reach one of them. The certification would be a huge deal for Pemberley, and would broaden the farm’s exposure and hopefully make it more financially viable.

It hadn’t been easy, as he’d basically taken it on by himself. He’d had little support from his parents and virtually no help at all from George; they were all more than happy to let the farm remain as it was, but Will wasn’t satisfied with the status quo. Pemberley had been on a slow downward spiral, and he refused to let it continue. He wanted more, for himself and for the farm.

His ultimate goal was to see Pemberley certified by the USDA as one hundred percent organic by the middle of this season. Converting had been a long, arduous process, and he’d been at it for almost three years. He was convinced it was the right direction for the farm, and once everything fell into place, Pemberley would be the largest organic farm in Berkshire County and several counties beyond.

He entered the bakery, and when his eyes lit on the only other customer there, he groaned softly. 

He hadn’t thought much about Elizabeth Bennet since the dance, other than when he’d talked to Charles the next day. But once in a while, and completely out of the blue, something she’d said that night would pop into his head. He’d either laugh or curse, depending on the recollection, but invariably he’d end up thinking that her exceptionally sweet body and gorgeous green eyes were wasted on a rotten personality.

“Good morning, Will!” called out a voice from behind the counter.

“Mornin’, Sky.” Sky Parker was number six in the long line of Parker siblings, of which there were eleven. Her family had run this bakery for as long as he could remember.

He stood behind Elizabeth and she slowly turned her head, barely peeking at him from the corner of her eye before facing the counter again.

He leaned toward her. “And how are you today, Miss Bennet? Enjoying this balmy weather?”

She turned to him with a smile that looked more like a grimace. “Hello, Farm—um, Will. Yes, it’s a beautiful day.”

“Just beautiful.”

His eyes traveled over her attire, noting her black ski jacket, faded jeans and bright pink snow boots, which matched the bright pink scarf she wore around her neck. It gave her a very non-city-like appearance.

“Decided to give up on the cashmere, hm? Resorting to jeans like the rest of us?”

“Cashmere is a little much for a trip to the bakery. And when in Rome—”

“I’ve got two blueberry scones,” Sky interrupted, “two pumpkin spice scones, two white chocolate cranberry scones and a roasted banana cupcake. Anything else?”

“Coffee, please,” Elizabeth answered. “A large of your house blend is fine.”

“Word of the scones travels fast, I see.” Will folded his arms over his chest as Sky went to retrieve the coffee. “You’re a little out of your comfort zone, though, aren’t you? No good bakeries in West Stockbridge?”

~~*~~

My comfort zone? 

Elizabeth turned to Farmer Darcy and wrinkled her nose. “I’m sure there are excellent bakeries in West Stockbridge, but I decided to slum it today.”

Sky came back with the coffee and rang up her order, and Elizabeth had a thought. She smiled and forced some warmth into her tone.

“Would you like a coffee? My treat.”

“You don’t need to buy me a coffee.” 

“I know I don’t need to, but I’d like to. It’s the least I could do.”

His eyebrows rose. “The least you could do? Meaning what?”

“Meaning…it’s the least I could do. You know, for the other night.”

“The other night?”

“Yes, you know.” She fluttered her hand. “The whole dance thing.”

He nodded slowly. “Oh, the dance thing. Right. So this is an apology coffee?”

“No, it’s not an apology coffee, I just thought it would be a nice gesture.” She shrugged. “Forget it. Buy your own damned coffee.”

“I will. I don’t need anyone to buy me a coffee, especially you. I’m perfectly capable of paying for one on my own. Even farmers can afford good coffee.”

“And scones!” Sky chimed in loudly. “Do you want your usual, Will?”

~~*~~

Will glanced over to the smiling woman who was waiting patiently for Elizabeth to pay, and his voice softened. “Please. Throw in an extra scone for my mom too, if you wouldn’t mind.” His gaze went back to Elizabeth. “What’s your problem, anyway?”

Her eyes widened. “What’s my problem? You’re the one who followed me here, what’s your problem?” She turned and thrust a handful of money towards Sky.

“Oh please, don’t flatter yourself. I’ve been coming to this place for years. I slum it every day.”

Sky glowered. “Hey!”

“Sorry, Sky.”

Elizabeth picked up her coffee and the box of treats and turned to face him. “Have a fantastic day. Enjoy your coffee and scones.”

“Oh, I will. You too.” 

He didn’t spare her a second glance as she left the shop and instead stared straight ahead, determined to keep his eyes focused on the carrot cake behind the counter and not think about the brightness of her green eyes as she’d laid into him. 

That’s it. She’s a Green. Eyed. Devil.  

His attention was drawn to Sky when he heard her laughing. “What’s so funny?”

That. That was funny. That’s the most excitement this place has seen in a long time.” She sucked in her bottom lip and placed his order on the counter. “You should see the look on your face. Who is that, anyway?”

“No one,” he huffed. “Absolutely no one.”

***

Elizabeth tore off pieces of roasted banana cupcake and shoved them into her mouth as she drove back to Longbourn.

An apology coffee? That’s not what it was. Well, not completely. She harrumphed. All right, maybe it was

But so what? What was wrong with offering to buy a person a coffee and a scone, in lieu of blurting out the words “I’m sorry you had the unfortunate experience of eavesdropping on a private conversation between me and my sister and heard me making some stereotypical generalizations about farmers?”

The coffee was a much better option.

She stormed into the house and dropped her coffee and the box of scones onto the kitchen counter with a little more force than was necessary. Jane was sitting at the breakfast nook and glanced up with raised eyebrows from the pile of paperwork in front of her.

“Whoa. Rough morning at the bakery?”

“Yes. It was. A very rough morning. At the bakery.”

Jane giggled. “I can’t wait to hear this. What happened?”

“That fucking farmer was there. Can you believe it? I think he followed me, and I swear he went into that bakery just to torment me.”

“And that fucking farmer is Will Darcy, I assume?”

“Yes, that fucking farmer! Of course it’s Will Darcy! How many other fucking farmers have I met since I’ve been here?” Elizabeth took in her sister’s amusement and her eyes narrowed. “Don’t you dare laugh at me again, Jane Marie Bennet. I swear to God, I will dropkick every single one of those scones clear across the backyard if you so much as snort.”

Jane pursed her lips. “Um…maybe he followed you so the two of you could iron things out.”

Elizabeth’s mouth dropped open. “No, no, that’s not why. He didn’t even try to iron things out. I did, I offered to pay for his coffee, and he got all offended. ‘I’m a farmer, I have money, I can pay for my own coffee, blah blah blah.’ What a jerk.”

“Wow.”

“Wow what?”

“Just…wow. I’ve never seen you so…riled up. Your cheeks are red, you’re out of breath, you’re just—”

“I’m mad! This is what happens when people get mad!”

“But that’s just it, Lizzy, you never get mad. You’re always so calm and cool, even when you should be flying off the handle.”

Elizabeth threw up her hands. “I don’t know what it is. No, wait, yes I do. He gets on my last nerve. Yanks it out of my body, throws it on the ground and stomps his shitty boots all over it.”

“That must be what it is, right?”

Elizabeth nodded emphatically. “Yes. That’s definitely what it is.”

***

Will sped up the driveway of Pemberley, ignoring the patches of ice. He was running late, no thanks to Elizabeth Bennet. She wanted to buy him a coffee! As if that would excuse all of the rotten things she’d said on Saturday night.

The truck came to a sliding stop in front of the house and he hopped out carrying his father’s coffee and the scones. He took the front steps two at a time and when he entered the house, the first thing he noticed was the woman standing in the living room in nothing but a man’s dress shirt that hung to her knees.

He averted his eyes, but not before noticing it was his shirt. “Hello, Charlotte. Excuse me.”

His parents were seated at the kitchen table, while his brother was leaning against the counter in nothing but a pair of sweat pants, waiting for the coffee to finish brewing.

George eyed the bag. “Daily Bread?”

“Yup. Not for you, though.”

“Damn. You should have told me you were making the trip.”

Will placed his father’s coffee in front of him. “You would have known if you’d gotten out of bed at a reasonable time. Mind telling me why your girlfriend is wearing my shirt?”

“Remember I got hammered one night and cut the left sleeves off of mine?” George chuckled. “Not an easy thing to do when you’re drunk and only have one hand.”

“That’s your problem. I’m assuming she came here in clothes, can’t she put them back on? In fact, she should. Don’t you think it’s a little disrespectful that she’s parading around half-naked?”

George gave his brother a pointed look. “That’s why she’s in the living room and not in here, dipshit. Back off.”

“Mm-hmm. Stay out of my closet, I’m not the local thrift shop.”

“All right, all right. Who pissed in your coffee this morning?”

Elizabeth Bennet. 

The name skirted through Will’s mind quickly and he shook his head. “No one, I’m just running late.”

He handed the scones to his mother, and then took two plates out of the cabinet and set them in front of his parents.

“George.” Robert lifted his trembling hand, nearly knocking over his coffee. “Why–why don’t you go with your brother to–to the bank?”

“No, Dad, it’s okay,” Will said. “I’m not going to the bank, I’m meeting the rep from Commonwealth Quality. Remember?”

Abby set a scone on each of their plates. “He knows, he just forgot. And George’s girlfriend is here, Bobby, remember? He can’t leave her to go running off to a meeting. Fitzwilliam can go on his own, he’ll be fine.”

“Yeah, Dad, I’m fine.” As usual.

George poured two cups of coffee and carried one to the kitchen doorway. He discreetly handed it to Charlotte, who remained out of sight. Will walked up behind him and handed him the other mug, and after George thanked him he paused and looked at his older brother.

“Um…do you want me to go with you?”

Will’s eyebrows rose. “Would you?”

George shrugged. “I mean, yeah, if you need me to.”

“What about Charlotte?”

“She can hang out. She’s cool.” He looked over Will’s shoulder to their mother, who was talking quietly to their father. “She gets along good with Mom.”

Will stared at his brother for a moment and then shook his head. “No, you don’t need to be there. I have to go right to the food bank after, anyway.” He didn’t miss the relief that spread across his brother’s face. “Plus, you need to make sure I get that shirt back.”

George waggled his brows. “I’m on it.” Without another word he disappeared into the living room, and Will heard the distinct sound of female giggling before footsteps could be heard moving quickly up the stairs.

He turned to his parents. “Does it bother you that she stays here with George?”

Abby waved her hand. “We told him it was all right. You boys have your own side of the house. And really, you’re not boys anymore, are you? You’re both grown men, and you’re here to help us out. We want you to be able to live your lives as best you can.” She smiled. “And besides, it’s so nice that George has a girlfriend, isn’t it? She’s very nice. Sweet, sweet girl.”

Robert’s eyes lit up. “Older woman.” He waggled his eyebrows, looking remarkably like his youngest son.

Will chuckled. “Yeah, that’s exactly how George says it, too.” His father laughed again, and Will smiled. “You feeling good today?”

Robert nodded. “The–the scone helps.”

“Good. Be careful with the coffee. I have to get going, I’ll see you both later.”

As he drove back into town, he thought back to when he’d left school to come home. Initially it had been because his father had fallen ill, but then George had his accident, and Will realized there would be no going back—not for a very long time. But that was okay; he’d come to terms with staying at Pemberley, and he didn’t regret any of it. His family needed him, and no matter what, family always came first.

But it dawned on him this morning, while standing in his parents’ kitchen, that not only had he put his education on hold, he’d put his life on hold as well. Maybe it was because he missed his friends; going out both nights last weekend and seeing so many of them… It made him forget, just for a little while, that he had a family legacy balancing on his shoulders.

Maybe it was seeing Charles, his lifelong best friend, starting a thing with Jane—a thing that would probably get serious. Or maybe it was seeing George share a lazy morning coffee with his girlfriend.

As much as it bothered him to admit it, his mother was right; he needed a girlfriend. He wanted a thing of his own, and maybe a lazy morning with a half-naked someone. He wanted more.

He wanted a life, and someone to share it with.

***

I hope you enjoyed Chapter 3! And please keep an eye out for my new blog post, coming tomorrow! Enjoy your weekend.