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Prejudice and Pride

By ThaliaRivendell

Romance

Chapter 1

Chapter 1

The sun began to rise over the farm that belonged to the Bennett family. Once the light reached the house, the day would begin. The eldest of the five children was the first to awaken. John stretched then threw a shoe at the next eldest brother, Eli.

"What was that for?" Eli rubbed the spot on his head where the shoe had hit him.

"It's time to get up. Get the others up while I slop the hogs." John replied as he got up and began to dress.

"Fine, I'll be down in a minute." Eli pulled on his own clothes and went to wake up the other three brothers, Mark, Ken, and Lyle.

Eli slipped past his parent's bedroom and gave a knock on the younger siblings' door.

"Guys come on, we gotta get this stuff done before we head to school." Eli pushed open the door and waited while the other three brothers got dressed.

"Alright, we're coming." Mumbled Ken. Being the youngest Ken was the one that required the most motivation to get going. Mark on the other hand was up and ready to help. He nodded at his brother and went outside to help John.

Eli waited until Lyle and Ken were both completely dressed before leaving their room to head outside. Once there he began the morning chores of feeding all of the animals before he went to school. John had graduated a year before he had from Merryton High School, and now Eli was left to deal with the other seniors who thought Eli was all beneath them. On top of feeling left out, he had to look after his younger brothers. Mark was a sophomore and didn't need much looking after, but Lyle was just a freshman and still learning the ropes. Ken was still in middle school but he would be starting high school the next school year.

Eli sighed as he thought about all that the year was going to bring as he fed the horses in their stalls. He wanted to do more for himself than his older brother. John had already said that he would stay on at the farm and run it for their father. Eli knew that John wanted to do this, but he couldn't bring himself to be happy at this place.

Once all of the chores were done all of the brothers trouped into the house to eat breakfast and head out for school. This was the only time when everyone would be in one room at the same time all day. Mrs. Bennett was washing the dishes from making breakfast while her sons and husband ate their food. She would eat once all the cleaning was done.

"Well Eli, you are a senior this year." Mr. Bennett said before taking a sip of his coffee.

"Yes Pop. I'm looking forward to leaving this town." It had slipped out of his mouth before he could stop himself.

Mr. Bennett made a noise between a grumble and a growl. Eli knew what that meant. It meant that he was going to get a lecture about family and what should be important to a man.

"Eli, you know that this farm has been handed down from father to son for the past ten generations." Mr. Bennett began.

"Pop, I know what you are going to say and I just can't stay here. Besides John is staying here with you. He can take care of the farm." Eli stood up from the breakfast table and grabbed his school bag. "We gotta go Pop. Let's get going guys." Mark, Lyle, and Ken all stood up and grabbed their things and followed their brother out the door to begin the long walk to school.

"Why does Pop want you and John to stay at home?" Ken asked Eli.

"Because that's how it was done in the past. The children would stay at home once they had finished school and take over." Eli shrugged his shoulders and hitched his bag higher. "Just wait, he will give you the same talk pretty soon.

Ken made a face and Eli chuckled. He couldn't blame his brother for it. Every time he thought about it he got a sick feeling in his stomach. All he had to do now was just make it through his last year at high school.

But Eli didn't know that his final year at Merryton High just might turn his world upside down.

Riding into the small town in an expensive SUV was Charlie Bingley and her best friend Darcy Fitzwilliam.



Chapter 2

Charlie looked out of the window of the SUV with a large smile on her face.

"Look Darcy, isn't this town exciting?" Charlie said in her British lilt to her friend.

"Oh yes, it is quite exciting to leave your home and move to another country." Darcy answered, her British lilt dripping with sarcasm.

"Oh lighten up. This will be fun! Besides George was able to come with us. You aren't alone here you know." Charlie smoothed out her skirt.

Darcy sighed and gave an apologetic look to her best friend. Darcy knew that Charlie wasn't able to have her brother come over with them and that was going to be a damper on Charlie's feelings. Darcy looked out her window of the SUV and saw a group of guys walking along the sidewalk. There were four of them, and the tallest of them looked to be the eldest. She looked the eldest boy over from head to toe. He was handsome she had to admit but he was obviously below her in status. Darcy gave a sniff and looked away.

Soon the SUV pulled up in front of the high school that the girls were to attend. Charlie climbed out and practically ran to the front door calling for Darcy to hurry up. Darcy on the other hand took her time to climb out and grab her bag. She began to follow her friend inside when someone ran into her.

"I beg your pardon but I was clearly walking." She spouted off to whoever had run into her. It surprised her to see that it was the eldest of the boys that were walking.

Eli furrowed his brow and gave a brusque apology and walked past the girl. Eli noticed that she had a British accent, which of course made her more attractive. He shook his head and hurried to his first class.

Meanwhile Darcy had caught up with Charlie in the front office to receive their class schedules.

"There you are Darcy. I was beginning to wonder if you had gotten lost." Charlie grinned and took Darcy's hand.

"No, I didn't get lost. A boy almost ran me over at the front door." Darcy answered her friend.

"Did he hurt you?" Concern crossed Charlie's face.

"No he didn't hurt me, but he could have been more careful." Darcy sniffed then smiled as the receptionist handed her the class schedule.

"Do we have any classes together?" Charlie grabbed the schedule from Darcy's hand. "Oh look Darcy! We have first and last period together, and lunch as well. How wonderful is that?" Charlie beamed.

"It's great Charlie. Let's get going before we are later than necessary." Darcy thanked the receptionist and walked out of the office with Charlie on her heels.

The girls looked up and down the halls before finding their first class. It was biology in room 9A with a Mr. Collins.

Charlie all but bounced in place as she opened the door.

"Excuse us, but we are the new students." Charlie beamed at Mr. Collins when she had entered the room.

"Oh, yes of course." Mr. Collins seemed a little flustered at the girls' abrupt entrance. "Please come in and introduce yourselves."

"Hello everyone, my name is Charlie Bingley and this is my friend Darcy Fitzwilliam. We are from England and we hope to get to know everyone." Charlie said everything with a genuine smile and Darcy noticed that several of the boys in the room perked up when she spoke.

Mr. Collins smiled and thanked Charlie for her introduction. "Alright, let's get the two of you partnered up with someone. Charlie you will be Molly Wikersham's partner and Darcy you will be Eli Bennett's partner."

Darcy glanced around the room and saw whom Mr. Collins had named as her partner. It was the boy who had run into her earlier. Darcy frowned and took the seat next to Eli.

Eli was just a surprised as Darcy. He hadn't expected this to happen. Eli shook his head as he thought about how this year was going to be with his new lab partner.



Chapter 3

Mr. Collins began his lesson right after Charlie and Darcy took their seats. He droned on in a rather boring voice but Eli didn't notice. He had learned to tune out Mr. Collins' voice a long time ago. What Eli was focusing on now was Darcy sitting next to him.

He didn't want to look directly at her but he had to admit to himself that she was quite attractive. He noticed that her brown eyes were the color of melted chocolate and that they matched her long hair perfectly. Her face reminded him of a singer's; an oval shaped face with high cheek bones and an elegant nose. Plus she had a taller athletic build that left her with a light bronze coloring and slightly muscular arms and legs; which he could see perfectly since she was wearing a skirt and sleeveless top.

"Eli, would you like to answer this question for us?" Mr. Collins called out and woke Eli from his trance.

Eli cleared his throat. "I'm sorry, what was the question?" A few of the other students chuckled.

"Mr. Bennett do try to pay attention. Yes miss Bingley?" Mr. Collins pointed at Charlie who had her hand raised high in the air.

"The answer is Charles Darwin." She beamed as she answered the question.

"Very good, Mr. Bennett you would do well to learn from Charlie." Mr. Collins turned back to the board and began to write.

"Everyone knows the answer to that question." Darcy muttered in her lilt to Eli.

"I did know the answer, I was just˗"

"Zoning out?" Darcy finished for him with a smirk.

Eli didn't answer her jibe but tried to focus on the rest of the lecture. Darcy cast a quick glance over at him and took in his appearance.

He was tall with black hair that fell into his eyes in what Darcy supposed was a charming sort of way. She did have to admire his forest green eyes though; she hadn't seen eyes that color before. His build was muscular but not overly so. His broad shoulders framed him up nicely and the tan that was on his skin finished him off.

Darcy gave a sniff and looked back at the front of the class. She wouldn't let herself be distracted by a boy. Especially one that had so rudely run into her.

The bell rang and class was over. Everyone jumped up from their seats at the lab tables and grabbed their things. Darcy and Charlie lingered for a moment and walked together out of the class.

"That was fun!" Charlie exclaimed when they had made it into the hall.

"I'm glad that you thought so. My partner is going to be barely tolerable." Darcy said.

"Oh nonsense. He seems like a good guy. Plus he is attractive." Charlie gave a light laugh.

Darcy had to admire her friend. She was the only daughter of a wealthy family and had had complications when she was little on top. Her parents had coddled her to the point where Darcy was worried that Charlie might not see the world for what it actually was; a cold and unforgiving place. But despite everything that had been thrown at her, Charlie grew up to be a beautiful young woman with flowing red hair and tiny freckles that dusted her nose. Because of her health issues when she was little she hadn't grown very tall, she only came to Darcy's shoulder, but she had managed to keep herself healthy and strong by swimming.

"Ok Charlie, we have to go to our own classes now. I will see you at lunch." Darcy gave her friend a hug then went to her class. Hopefully the rest of the day would fly by so that she wouldn't have to endure too much boredom.



Chapter 4

The next few classes passed by in a blur for Eli. He wasn't sure why but he was thinking about Darcy. When Mr. Collins stated that she was to be his lab partner he had to do a double take. Why was she even here at Merryton High? Eli shook his head and continued into the cafeteria.

He wasn't in there for five seconds when he ran into someone.

"Excuse me." He mumbled.

"Oh it's you." A female voice said. Eli didn't have to look to see who it was.

"I didn't mean to run into you. Either time." Eli stated to Darcy.

"Eli, was it?" Darcy gave him a good once over and wrinkled her nose.

"And you are Darcy." Eli stated evenly.

"Obviously, do you know of any other girls named Darcy that are from England?" Darcy said with contempt.

"At Merryton? No, you and your friend are the only English students here." Eli made to move away then stopped. "Look, I apologize for running into you. Both times. Alright?"

Darcy stood there for a moment then nodded once. "Accepted. Since it seems that that will be all I am able to get out of you."

Eli sighed. "What if we start over?"

"What good will that do?" Darcy frowned.

Eli ignored her comment. "Hello, my name is Eli Bennett. It's nice to meet you."

"Darcy Fitzwilliam. How do you do." Darcy turned away and went to look for Charlie.

Darcy found her at a table near the center of the crowded cafeteria. Charlie beamed and waved her over.

"How were your classes? I have enjoyed mine immensely." Charlie took a sip of her drink and looked around the room.

"Charlie, you always enjoy everything." Darcy smiled at her friend.

"That's not true. I don't enjoy being sick." Charlie made a face then perked up. "Oh who was that you were talking to? Isn't he your lab partner?"

Darcy wrinkled her nose. "Yes he is. His name is Eli Bennett."

"He seems like he would be a nice guy." Charlie mused. "You know that he has four brothers."

"Well that explains quite a bit." Darcy answered.

"What do you mean?" Charlie spotted Eli from across the room and waved.

"Charlie what are you doing? Don't call him over here." Darcy pulled Charlie's arm down but Eli was already heading their way.

"Your name is Eli Bennett, right?" Charlie smiled and gestured to a seat.

Eli sat down next to Charlie. "That's me." He answered with a polite smile.

"I'm Charlie Bingley, I don't think we have met properly yet." Charlie held out her hand and Eli took it.

"It's nice to meet you Charlie." Eli shook her hand then dropped it.

"I think you have met my friend Darcy." Charlie nudged her friend who was trying to ignore everyone.

"Yes, we have met three times today. If you count both instances when he ran into me." Darcy smirked then returned to her food.

"I have apologized for both times." Eli told Charlie.

Charlie gave Eli a knowing look and smiled. "I'm sure you have."

Eli sat there for a moment more then got up from the table. "It was nice to meet you Charlie, but I had better find my brothers before they get into trouble."

"Alright then, see you soon." Charlie waved at him while Darcy completely ignored him.

"Why did you do that?" Darcy asked.

"Because I wanted to meet him. He seems nice." Charlie said.

"I'm not so sure." Darcy muttered to herself as she watched Eli look for his brothers.



Chapter 5

The day had finally ended and Darcy couldn't be happier.

"I'm glad that is over." She said as she settled into the SUV with Charlie.

"What do you mean? We still have a full year ahead of us." Charlie said with a grin.

"Please be a dear and don't remind me." Darcy grimaced at the thought of having to sit next to Eli everyday.

"Hey Darcy, it's Eli and his brothers. We should give them a lift home."

"Wait what, no Charlie don't call to them." Darcy panicked but it was too late.

Charlie rolled down her tinted window and called out, "Eli! Hey! Do you and your brothers want a ride? We have plenty of room."

Darcy held her breath as she waited for Eli to decline the offer. This was the last thing that she wanted for this day.

"Darcy here they come, scoot over closer to me." Charlie grabbed Darcy's arm and pulled her over as Eli Bennett and his brothers climbed in.

"Thank you for the lift Charlie." Eli smiled, "These are my younger brothers; Mark, Lyle, and Ken." Eli gestured to each boy in turn and they smiled at Charlie.

"It's a pleasure to meet all of you. I'm Charlie Bingley and this is my friend Darcy Fitzwilliam. Where do you live?" Charlie said everything with a smile and Darcy just sat trying not to look at Eli.

"We live just outside of town. Keep going down this road and it is a large farm on the right." Mark spoke up. Eli glanced at his brother because Mark said so few words, especially around new people.

The ride outside of town took longer than Darcy expected it to and she began to wonder if the brothers walked every morning.

"Do you often walk to Merryton High?" Darcy looked at Eli for the first time since he had gotten into the SUV.

"Yes, we walk to the school every day. And home too usually." Eli answered her.

Darcy looked him over again then looked away.

"There's the farm. Thank you for the ride Charlie." Eli opened the door of the SUV and let all of his brothers out.

"It wasn't a problem. Just let us know if you need a ride." Charlie smiled.

"Eli! You are home early." Everyone looked to see who had spoken.

"Hey John, Charlie gave us a lift home." Lyle said to his eldest brother.

"Well that was very kind of you." John looked at Darcy as he said this.

"My name is Darcy Fitzwilliam, and this is Charlie Bingley. She is the one you should be thanking." Darcy said with her usual air.

John looked at Charlie and froze. He had never seen someone so beautiful in his entire life. Charlie noticed John's gaze and blushed before looking away.

"It wasn't any trouble." Charlie giggled as John smiled and both Darcy and Eli looked from one person to the other.

Darcy looked at Eli and found that he had an expression that mirrored her own. She could not believe that Charlie was smitten so suddenly with someone she had just met. Eli looked at Darcy and their eyes met for a moment. Darcy shook her head slightly.

"Would you like to come meet the horses?" John asked Charlie.

"Oh I would love to!" Charlie exclaimed and Darcy perked up.

"You have horses?" She asked Eli as they followed Charlie and John around the back of the house and to the stables.

"Yeah, we have four. Do you like horses?" Eli glanced sideways at Darcy and he saw her face light up as they entered the stables.

"I love horses." Darcy smiled for the first time and went to the closest horse.

Darcy reached a hand out and stroked the horse's muzzle. The horse made a noise and nuzzled Darcy's hand. Darcy gave a small chuckle and rested her forehead against the horse's muzzle. Since leaving England, Darcy had not ridden or been around a horse. It actually made her sad.

Eli noticed how relaxed Darcy was around the horses.

"Have you ridden before?" Eli asked.

Eli's voice brought Darcy back to reality. "Of course I have. I'm British. Charlie, I think we should be going now."

Charlie sighed but agreed with her friend. It would take a little bit to make it back to the estate.

As Darcy and Charlie climbed into the SUV Eli nudged his brother's arm.

"You like her don't you." Eli grinned when John cleared his throat and tried to hide his smile.

"I think I do. What do you think of her friend?" John looked at Eli.

"I think she is a bit of a snob actually." Eli wrinkled his nose.

"Really, that's funny." John turned and began to walk to the house.

"What do you mean?" Eli said.

"You couldn't take your eyes off Darcy Fitzwilliam. That's all." John laughed and went inside as Eli stood in the yard stunned at what his brother had just said.



Chapter 6

A couple of days passed and Eli worked with Darcy as best he could during lab. Eli quickly found out that Darcy like to do things for herself, which didn't exactly bother him; except when the project was for both partners.

"Eli, do you mind staying after class for a moment?" Mr. Collins asked Eli just as he was about to exit the classroom.

Eli caught Darcy looking back over her shoulder at him, but she quickly looked away.

"Is something wrong Mr. Collins?" Eli stuck his hands in his jeans pockets.

"Well, your class participation grade has been steadily falling. And please let me finish before you protest. You are a wonderful student and I know that working with Darcy may be a little trying."

"You can say that again." Eli muttered.

"So for you to bring up your grade, I would like for you and Darcy to do an out of class partner project." Mr. Collins finished his spill and Eli almost chocked.

"You want us to do a what?" Eli hoped that he had heard wrong.

"I will have the material packets ready for you and Darcy tomorrow morning. If you would be kind enough to inform her." Mr. Collins patted Eli on the shoulder.

Eli grabbed his stuff and left the room. This was not what he had planned to do to bring up his grade. He grumbled and went to his next class.

When lunch rolled around Eli found Darcy and Charlie sitting at their usual table.

"Hey Eli, what's up?" Charlie smiled and motioned for him to sit down.

"Nothing much really." Eli sat then looked at Darcy. "Darcy we have an out of class partner project to work on."

Darcy laughed at him when he finished. "That's funny. I didn't know that you could make a joke like that."

"I'm not kidding. You have been doing all of the work and my participation grade has been going down. Mr. Collins assigned this to us." Eli answered slowly.

Darcy's smile faltered and she realized that Eli was being serious.

"Isn't there something else that you can do?" She asked.

"Nope. Although this wouldn't have been a problem if you would have let me do some of the work." Eli frowned.

"What do you mean? I've let you do plenty of the work. I just took care of the things that you would have messed up." Darcy stated.

Now it was Eli's turn to laugh. "You call writing our names on the paper helping? And I wouldn't have messed anything up." He stood up and grabbed his bag. "Look I just came over here to tell you what Mr. Collins said." He turned to Charlie. "See ya later Charlie."

"Bye Eli." Charlie waved and then looked at her friend with a frown.

"What?"

"You could have been a little nicer to him you know." Charlie stabbed her salad with her fork.

The next day came and sure enough Mr. Collins handed both Eli and Darcy a packet with instructions.

"I was hoping that you were kidding." Darcy muttered to Eli when they had sat down.

"I told you." Eli replied. He looked about as thrilled as Darcy did.

Darcy held the packet in her hands and realized that this would mean that they would have to meet at an outside location.

"Where will we meet to do this project?"

Eli looked into Darcy's brown eyes and his stomach gave a little flip. She was nervous and it made her look cute.

"We can meet at my place." Eli answered after clearing his throat.

Darcy wrinkled her nose and then remembered the horses in the stables. Her eyes lit up.

"Only if you agree to let me ride the horses." Darcy said while looking straight ahead.

Eli remembered how enchanted with the horses Darcy was. He remembered how she looked when she was calm and at peace. He wanted her to look like that again so much that it hurt; and this new feeling surprised him.

"That's a deal." Eli smiled.



Chapter 7

"Are you sure that it is ok to bring me?" Charlie asked for the tenth time since they had left the house.

"Yes, I am sure. Everyone loves you Charlie. Besides you will get to see John again." Darcy grinned when she saw her friend blush.

"I thought that you didn't like the thought of us dating." Charlie looked at Darcy raising an eyebrow.

"I never said anything one way or the other. I am not responsible for what you think I mean." Darcy looked out the window at the passing trees and buildings.

Soon they came upon the Bennett farm. Darcy got out of the SUV and looked around for Eli before darting to the stables.

"Darcy, wait for them to come out of the house." Charlie called to her friend but she was already gone.

"Don't worry about it." John said as he walked up to Charlie.

Charlie smiled. "Hello John. How are you doing?"

John returned her smile. "I am doing well, what about you?"

"Oh stop it with the pleasantries and ask her already." Lyle popped up from behind a bush that was his hiding spot.

"Great, now you've gone and revealed our hiding spot." Ken popped up and hit his brother on the shoulder.

"Both of you get inside." Eli said as he came out of the door. The two youngest brothers went inside but didn't bother trying to hide their looking out the window. Eli shook his head and looked to John. "Well they are right. Go ahead and ask her." He turned to Charlie. "Hey Charlie, where is Darcy?"

"She is out at the stables." She smiled at Eli and then looked up at John. "What do they mean ask me?"

Eli chuckled as John turned pink at the collar of his shirt and left them be. He rounded the corner of the house and made his way to the stables. When he got to the door he peeked around and looked for Darcy.

He found her nuzzling with a young mare and wearing full ridding gear. Eli dared not enter yet, he wanted to enjoy his view for as long as he could.

Darcy had her hair pulled up into a bun and her ridding breeches hugged her curves in all of the right places. Eli felt his heart rate pick up and he almost stumbled as he fully entered the stable.

"We don't have any English saddles."

Darcy turned quickly and dropped her hands from the horse. She looked Eli over and decided that she liked his outfit; jeans and a light blue plaid shirt with the sleeves pushed up. This allowed her to see the muscles of his arms and all the yummy tan skin that went with it. Darcy's cheeks immediately turned red when she realized what thoughts she had just had.

"That is quite alright. I can ride in a Western saddle just as well as an English one." Darcy put her hands on her hips and waited for Eli to fetch the saddle for her.

"We aren't ridding right now. We have to work first. Then we can ride." Eli motioned for Darcy to follow him.

"We? I didn't agree to ridding with you." Darcy followed Eli to the back porch where a table and supplies had already been set up. "What is all this?"

"It's for our project. Did you even read the packet?" Eli was a little surprised.

"Of course I did. I just didn't expect there to be so much stuff for you to do." Darcy sat down and waited for Eli to sit before she started reading over the instructions again.

"First of all, we both have to do this." Eli pushed half of the supplies to Darcy, "and second; no, there is not a way for you to get out of this." He grinned when he saw Darcy frown. He knew that she really didn't care to help him, but yet here she was willingly sitting with him at his house to work on a project.

"Alright, fine. Let's get started on this." Darcy picked up a pencil and began to write on her paper.



Chapter 8

Eli and Darcy worked to well into the afternoon before they were finished with the entire project.

"When was this due?" Darcy asked as she rubbed her eyes.

"It actually wasn't due until next week, but we were getting so much done I thought we would just finish it." Eli replied while he cleaned up the mess they had made.

Darcy had to admire Eli's work ethic. Once he started doing something he didn't stop until everything was finished. She wondered why she hadn't let him do more in class.

"Can I go ridding now?" Darcy got up and stretched.

Eli surreptitiously watched as Darcy stretched and a warm feeling began to spread in the pit of his stomach when some of her skin peeped out from under her ridding jacket.

Eli cleared his throat, "Yes we can go ridding now." He got up and ignored what was about to be her protest and went to the stables.

Darcy huffed but followed Eli back to the stables. When she caught up with him he was already getting saddles down from the loft.

"Can I ride the mare?" Darcy asked as she walked back over to the horse she had been loving on.

"Are you sure that you can handle her? She is calm in her area but when she is out in the open she can be tough to control." Eli was almost finished saddling up his own horse and came over to where Darcy was.

"I can handle her." Darcy grabbed the saddle from Eli and threw it over the mare's back.

Eli was impressed. That was at least fifty pounds of leather she had just lifted. Darcy caught Eli's look.

"What?"

"Nothing." Eli climbed onto his horse and waited for Darcy to do the same.

Darcy easily climbed onto her horse and nudged it forward. She smiled at the feeling of being able to ride. The last time she had been ridding was back in England with her brother George. Darcy mentally kicked herself for not thinking about it sooner.

"Hey Eli, would you mind if I brought someone over here to ride horses?" Darcy asked.

"Hey now, what do you think this is? Charity?" Eli laughed but stopped when he saw Darcy's face.

"Well I was hoping that this was going to be a nice ride." Darcy kicked her mount and it took off through the fields.

"Darcy! Wait!" Eli spurred his horse to go after Darcy.

Darcy didn't know these lands like the ones back home but she didn't care. She urged her horse to go faster and faster.

When the horse got to a flat out gallop things began to go wrong. Darcy pulled back on the reins but the horse wouldn't listen to her commands. Darcy could see a small river up ahead and prayed that the horse would jump over it rather than freeze and throw her off. The river came closer and the horse jumped landing safely on the other side of the bank.

Her mount had finally stopped and Darcy climbed off.

"Darcy!" Eli called and then appeared.

"I'm here." Darcy wiped her face quickly so that he would not see her tears.

"Are you alright?" Eli got off his horse and made to cross the river.

"No! Stay over there." Darcy held up her hand.

"Look I was only kidding back there." Eli tried to explain but Darcy's temper had flared.

"Is that how you kid around? Making it sound like doing something nice is charity?" Darcy's voice was rising.

"Darcy please, I was only trying to be funny. You can bring anyone you like here." Eli had to raise his own voice to be heard over Darcy's rant.

"Oh now you want to be the nice person." Darcy scoffed. "And tell me Eli Bennett, why would you do something so nice?" Darcy frowned.

"Because…I…I mean‒" Eli stuttered over his words and Darcy shook her head.

"Nevermind. Just move aside so that I can lead the horse back." She took the reins and began to wade across the small river.

"Wait please." Eli ran a hand through his hair. "I have feelings for you Darcy."

Darcy froze in her tracks with her heart pounding.



Chapter 9

Darcy couldn't believe what she had just heard. There was no way that Eli felt that way about her. What was even more confusing was that she felt the same about him.

"Are you just going to stand there?" Eli let his shoulder droop when he realized that Darcy was not going to return his words.

"No, I'm coming across." Darcy climbed back up on her horse and guided it through the water to the opposite side where Eli was.

Eli climbed back on his horse and waited for Darcy to take the lead back to the stables. Eli nudged his horse forward until he was even with Darcy.

"I just want you to know that you can bring anyone here that you like." Eli said quietly to Darcy before kicking his horse on to gallop.

Darcy watched as he left. He really did have feelings for her and she had been so mean to him. She let herself give in and cry as she felt something in her chest break. This was all new to her. Everyone always loved Charlie, and Darcy couldn't blame them. Charlie was everything that Darcy wished she could be. But life isn't always fun and games; especially when your parents leave you and your brother at home while they go off around the world.

After a while Darcy had made it back to the stables and put her horse and gear away. Eli was nowhere to be found and Darcy didn't blame him. Why should he care about her anymore?

"Darcy, guess what?" Charlie came running around the end of the house.

Darcy didn't answer and she didn't have to.

"John and I are going on a date!" Charlie squealed and hugged Darcy so tight her back popped.

"That's great Charlie. I hope that you have a good time." Darcy tried to smile but it didn't turn out too well.

"Thanks! I have to go get ready. Do you mind if I leave you here? I will be right back and then you can have the SUV all to yourself." Charlie dashed off before Darcy had a chance to say a word.

"Great." Darcy muttered and went up to the door and knocked.

The door opened and a man stood there looking at Darcy.

"Hi, my name is Darcy Fitzwilliam." Darcy smiled and the man grunted.

"I'm the boys' father Mr. Bennett. Eli is upstairs. All the way at the end of the hall." Mr. Bennett moved away from the door and let Darcy inside.

Darcy went up the stairs and to the end of the hall and found Eli lying on his bed. Darcy tapped on the door and stepped in.

"Hi."

Eli looked at her and sat up on the bed.

"What can I help you with?"

"I just wanted to say that I'm sorry for back at the river." Darcy fidgeted and Eli motioned for her to come and sit. Darcy hesitated for a moment then went and sat by him.

"I wasn't sure what I expected, but it wasn't that." Eli finally said.

"I know. I've never had anyone say that to me before." Darcy pushed some hair that had fallen out of the bun behind her ear.

"What do you mean? You are amazing. You can be a bit controlling at times but you are smart and athletic and beautiful." Eli stopped and waited for Darcy's reaction.

"You really think that I am beautiful?" Darcy whispered.

"Yes I do, and I know that you wouldn't have asked to bring someone here unless they were important to you." Eli took a chance and grabbed Darcy's hand.

"Yes, my younger brother. His name is George. He loves to ride horses and I thought that since you had horses that it might be ok." Darcy looked down at their hands. She didn't know how to understand this feeling that she was having but she knew that she liked it.

Eli watched Darcy as she thought about her brother.

"You can bring him over any time you would like." Eli smiled and Darcy returned it. "Actually w can go get him right now if you want."

"Really?" Darcy's eyes lit up.

"Let me get my keys." Eli got up but didn't let go of Darcy's hand.

And Darcy didn't want him to.



Chapter 10

Darcy followed Eli to his car and climbed in.

"I didn't expect you to drive an actual car. I thought that you would drive a truck." Darcy looked around the car and saw that everything was as tidy as his room.

"Well just because I live on a farm doesn't mean that I have to act like a farmboy. I want to leave this town after I graduate. My dad wants me to take over the farm but I don't want that." Eli cranked the car and navigated the drive and pulled out onto the highway.

"Head towards the school and then turn right at the light. Keep going until you see the mansions. Mine is the third on the left." Darcy said calmly and Eli glanced at her.

"Mansion?"

"Yeah, but Charlie and my brother live there too." Darcy said it like it was nothing because to her it wasn't. Eli just shook his head and followed Darcy's directions.

Darcy thought about bringing up a conversation but for once in her life she was shy. She was in a car with a guy that she actually liked. And what was more, he liked her back! This was such a new sensation and situation that Darcy was at a loss for words.

"You and your brother are close I take it?" Eli spoke into the silence.

"Yes, I am very protective of him. He is very innocent. Once a couple years back an older girl tried to take advantage of him." Darcy looked straight ahead.

"Did she get what she was looking for?" Eli asked gently. He could tell that this had upset Darcy.

"No. I had come home in time to hear her giggling and trying to convince George that it was ok. I opened the door to her showing George her body. I was so angry that I hit her. George was so frightened, I had never raised my voice in front of him before. After she left George came to my and cried. I held him till he drifted off to sleep." Darcy's voice had become quiet by the time she had finished her story.

"I'm sorry." Eli held out his hand towards Darcy and she hesitated a moment before placing hers in his.

"It has been two years, but I am still afraid that he will be taken advantage of again. He has been home schooled ever since that day. Actually, Molly kind of reminds me of that girl. Watch out for her, I don't get a very good feeling when I'm around her." Darcy shook her head.

"I will take care to watch out for her." Eli squeezed her hand. "This is the house right?"

Darcy hadn't even realized that they had made it home. "Yes, this is the place.

Darcy got out of the car and waited for Eli before walking in the door. Once inside Eli looked everywhere. The house was amazing, marble floors and golden fixtures adorned every room.

"Wow." Eli breathed.

"Do you like it?" Darcy actually sounded nervous that he wouldn't like it and it warmed his heart.

"This place is amazing. I can't even imagine living in a place like this." Eli followed Darcy into what must have been the living room.

"George? Where are you?" Darcy called out. After a moment they could hear a piano playing in another room. "Of course he is playing the piano. Come on." Darcy grabbed Eli's hand and pulled him into another room.

This room was full of musical instruments, but the most beautiful instrument was the grand piano in the center. Eli saw a young man sitting on the bench, his fingers flowing over the keys. He was taller than Darcy, but had the same colored hair as his older sister.

"George, I'm home." Darcy called out over the music.

"Darcy? I'm glad that you are home! I was getting lonely." George spoke and Eli saw his face for the first time. He was quite handsome and Eli could see why a girl would want to take advantage of him.

"George, this is Eli. He is a friend from school." Darcy introduced Eli. Eli held out his hand for a handshake but saw that George was looking Darcy's hand in his.

All of a sudden George threw his arms wide and snared Eli in a hug.

In his ear George whispered, "Thank goodness someone saw the good in her." George let go of Eli and smiled. "So how long have you two been dating?"

"Wait what?" Darcy's face reddened.

"Um, I actually haven't asked her out yet." Eli grinned and turned to Darcy. "Darcy Fitzwilliam, would you do me the honor of going out with me? And letting me take you to the prom?"

Darcy was speechless.


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