Book 6 in the Mister Darcy series comedic mysteries
MISTER DARCY’S HONEYMOON
A Mister Darcy series comedic mystery
Based on the enduring characters created by Jane Austen, this is a contemporary spin on a classic tale of love denied, and love discovered. Each novella is part of the Mister Darcy series but each adventure can be read as a standalone.
Under the guise of honeymooning, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy set off to save a quartet of domestic maids being held hostage in London and to return the legendary Red Rosary to the Templars’ treasure vaults. Can they avoid Caroline Bingley, evade the sinister men from Rome, and will they ever get to enjoy their honeymoon?
Book Six in the Mister Darcy series by Barbara Silkstone
Mister Darcy’s Dogs ~ Book One
Mister Darcy’s Christmas ~ Book Two
Mister Darcy’s Secret ~ Book Three
Pansy Cottage ~ Book Four
Mister Darcy’s Templars ~ Book Five
Mister Darcy’s Honeymoon ~ Book Six
Barbara Silkstone is the best-selling author of the Wendy Darlin Tomb Raider series of comedy mysteries. Her Romantic Suspense Fairy Tales series includes: The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters; Wendy and the Lost Boys; Zo White and the Seven Morphs. For a squirt of paranormal comedy try Cold Case Morphs.
Just as I felt nothing could possibly shake my world, my husband whispered in my ear, “Tomorrow’s the day.”
We were in the library of Darcy’s penthouse and I had just settled into one of our two armchairs, wearing a pale-green nightgown and matching robe. A book about Anne Boleyn rested in my lap.
The pink poodle slippers permanently borrowed from Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, were on my feet. I kept them in the library for fireside chats. The slippers, acting as foot puppets, spoke for me on the occasions when I was too polite to push a point. The slippers were very outspoken whereas I was not, except on rare occasions.
“We are to honeymoon…finally?” the left slipper said.
The right slipper interrupted. “We have waited long enough.”
Fitzwilliam Darcy and I had been married for a tad bit longer than six months. Most of that time we had spent sequestered in his apartment in One Snyde Park, the ritziest and most secure structure in all of London. My husband’s devotion to protecting London’s historic real estate had caused us to repeatedly delay our honeymoon.
Cuddling with Darcy was a lovely way to spend long, lazy days but I was getting antsy and wished to add a bit of adventure and perhaps a bit of spice to our lives. Still waters run deep, and Darcy was the most still of waters; I assumed he had something brewing as he had been terribly quiet for the last few days.
It appeared he had finally completed the plans for our honeymoon. It was to be a surprise destination and a honeymoon unlike any other, or so Darcy said.
I had imagined us in dozens of exotic settings from mountaintops to jungles and finally fixed my dreams on a stilt house in the clear turquoise waters of the Maldives. And to be certain my darling husband took my suggestion, I began to leave travel magazines open to pictures of love nests standing alone in crystal-clear water with creamy white sands visible through the gentle ripples. Any part of the Maldives would do, just somewhere we could spend hours slathering sunscreen on each other and swimming in the all-together.
“Well, my love, we are off to Scotland!” he said, sounding proud of his choice.
I rather liked Scotland with its breathtaking bens and lochs, but although it is one of the most beautiful of countries, outside of my own dear England, it is not exactly known for its nude swimming beaches, and hypothermia is more common than sunburn.
Darcy knelt at my chair and held my face in his hands. I gazed up into his deep brown eyes and read more meaning into his plans than he had revealed. “This is about the Red Rosary, isn’t it?” I said biting my lip and hoping I was wrong. Bye, bye, honeymoon.
The rosary was a priceless Templar antiquity and one more proof that the legend of the destruction of the Templars was, in fact, a fact. Darcy temporarily held the rosary secure in the vault in his apartment. I must get used to saying our, as in our apartment. The word our was an alien concept as Darcy was one of the richest men in England, and I was a struggling dog psychologist whose only clients were Darcy’s two basset hounds, Derby and Squire. And yet Darcy wished me to say our as he had bestowed all his worldly goods on me upon our marriage.
My handsome husband sat on the ottoman at my feet employing his serious face. “It is time to return the rosary to the bed of history until the Templars are prepared to disclose all that was done to them and to hold fast to their treasures in the face of claims by the Vatican. It is my duty and my honor to protect the Red Rosary. I have thought long and hard about how best to transport it to Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland.”
He rubbed his fingers over my hands as he chose his words. “Much has been made in books and movies of the chapel being the depository of the Templar treasures. Our historians have denied and denied that the chapel holds our treasures, but people remain unconvinced. There are those in Rome who might know at this moment that I possess the rosary. If I attempt to bring it to Rosslyn Chapel with guards and a secured vehicle, I might as surely draw a map certifying the chapel as the location of all the Templar treasures and evidence.”
I studied his mouth while he spoke. Darcy possessed the most delicious lips, firm and just moist enough. Biting the inside of my cheek, I brought myself around to pay attention to his words. “What of our honeymoon?”
He must have realized I was lusting as he grinned a crooked grin, provoking the dimple on the left side of his mouth. “First the rosary and then the honeymoon. We will use our honeymoon in Scotland as a cover for our journey to Rosslyn Chapel. From there your wish is my command.”
“I like the sound of that.” I imagined us floating in the waters of the Maldives while little fish nibbled at my toes.
“Here is my plan. Early tomorrow we will drive your Range Rover to Edinburgh and fiddle a bit in the traffic of the city to lose any possible followers. From there it is but a short drive to Rosslyn Chapel. Your Rover won’t attract the attention that my saloon car would. We shall bring cameras and equipment to make it appear to any Vatican spies that we are going on a photo tour for our honeymoon. It will not be very romantic, but it should be touristy enough to not arouse suspicion.”
So far the plan was acceptable. As one of my many wedding presents from my darling husband, Darcy had replaced my old Range Rover with a shiny new model. It was white with all the bells and whistles including white leather fold-down seats and hidden compartments.
“Will we be stopping in quaint country inns along the way?” I thought of what I might want to wear to set the mood and perhaps pretend we are in another century. Maybe the early nineteenth century? I imagined wearing Regency dresses and pinning my hair in an upsweep. I could make this pre-honeymoon jaunt into a romantic holiday.
Darcy flattened that thought. “We shall take the M6 straight away. It’s about a seven-hour trip. No overnight stops until I have entrusted the rosary. You don’t mind visiting the burial vaults beneath Rosslyn Chapel, do you?”
What could be more romantic? But I understood. Duty first, dilly-dallying second. Even if the dallying was our honeymoon.
Darcy stood and helped me from my chair. He clutched me to his chest, kissed the top of my head and ran his tongue over the shell of my ear. “Since we leave in the morning, shall we practice for our honeymoon in Scotland, Mrs. Darcy?”
“I doubt we need practice, Mr. Darcy. But if we are to rehearse at all, let us do so with the Maldive Islands in mind.” I kissed his lips. Then slipping out of the poodle slippers, I stepped into my ballet flats and let my husband lead me down the long corridor to our bedchamber.
We spent an hour or so rehearsing for our honeymoon, and finally came to rest between the black satin sheets of our bed. Darcy fell asleep, breathing evenly. I lay there watching him, marveling at all that had brought us together. At our first encounters, I thought him a pompous ass, but slowly he had won me over. He could still be a pompous ass at times, but now he was my pompous ass. I fell asleep with visions of floating in warm, crystal-blue waters.
The bedside phone rang, yanking me from my sleep. I looked at the clock. It was three in the morning. My first thought was that something had happened to my father. He had been feeling poorly the last few weeks and I did worry about him. Mother was not the best of caretakers; in actuality she was one of the worst.
I scrambled for the receiver and put it to my ear as I rolled away from Darcy still sleeping soundly at my side. It was my sister Mary who ran a children’s refuge established and funded by Darcy. Most of the children who stayed at the Marley Street Children’s Home were victims of poverty or poor parenting. A few of the children lived with Mary full-time. She did a lovely job of nurturing the little ones.
Her voice was urgent and on the verge of tears. At all times stalwart, Mary’s quavering tone shook me awake. “Lizzie, I need you. Please come here as fast as possible. You know I would not call if it were not a dire emergency!”
Darcy was undisturbed by Mary’s call. He had a long day ahead of him, driving to Scotland and doing whatever was required to place the Red Rosary in safekeeping. He needed the sleep, there was no sense in waking him as this could be something easily handled by two women. I was up for anything and Mary was a capable, take-charge lady, but then why did she sound panicked?
Slipping into the dressing room, I donned black slacks, a black sweater, and black boots on the chance Mary’s needs required stealth. I ran a brush through my hair and pulled it back into a clip. I scribbled a note saying I had gone to Mary’s and left it taped to Darcy’s dressing-room mirror.
Closing the bedroom door quietly behind me, I stepped into the corridor and waved at the security camera. Darcy’s bodyguard, Edward, appeared from one of the sliding walls. I had come to take the whole hocus-pocus sliding-walls security for granted, and loved having a chauffeur at my fingertips. Despite my independence, I was coming to realize I was spoilable.
“My sister Mary has an emergency at the Marley Street Children’s Home,” I said to Edward. “Please have the chauffeur bring around the limo, should she require ferrying a group of children to hospital.” My thought was that an emergency medical trip was a possibility.
Edward looked at me and then at the bedroom door. He knew better than to question me or waken Darcy. He tapped his shoulder communicator and called Matthew, the head of security. “I am escorting Mrs. Darcy on an errand. Please take over my post.” He clicked off. Tapped again and called the chauffeur.
We took the private elevator down to Darcy’s personal garage. The limo stood ready with Joseph, the chauffeur, holding the door. I sat in the back and Edward rode next to Joseph. We were off to sort out Mary’s emergency.
The Marley Street Children’s Home was located in a lower-middleclass section of London. Not the safest place at three in the morning, but with Edward and Joseph at my side I figured we could take on any hooligans and even a few louts.
Joseph parked at the curb and stayed in the limousine while Edward and I approached the front steps. Before I could knock, Mary opened the door. She must have been waiting at the peephole.
Mary put her finger to her lips cautioning us not to wake the sleeping children as Edward and I stepped into her reception room.
I was momentarily stunned to see four women in colorful cotton housedresses sitting on Mary’s sofa. They were a ragtag assortment of sizes and ages from young to middle-aged, with one thing in common: they appeared to be Pacific Islanders. They reminded me of a collection of rescue pups, each wearing an expression of combined terror and relief. The smallest lady, a wee bit of a thing, put her arm across the front of the largest lady as one would protect a child from a sudden stop in a car.
I looked from the ladies to Mary, seeking an explanation. My sister stood by the group and placed her arm around the shoulder of one of the women. “These ladies have just escaped their employers. They have been held captive as domestic workers, virtual prisoners in the homes of some of the wealthiest Middle-Eastern oil sheiks in London.”
Mary was emotional to the point of shaking as if she had palsy. My mind scrambled, attempting to fit the pieces together. My sister was providing sanctuary to a group of runaway ladies in Darcy’s children’s home. How had they come to be here?
I forgot Edward was in the room and nearly stepped on his big feet as I fell into a chair near the sofa.
The smallest lady spoke in broken English. “I am Lilibeth. These are my friends Riza, Divina, and Flora.” Each of the women nodded barely making eye contact, fear evident on their tired faces.
“I am Elizabeth Darcy, Mary’s sister.” I forced the look of surprise from my face and smiled kindly. “Have you been held as domestic prisoners?”
“Have the police been called?” I asked Mary.
All four ladies shook their heads violently at the word police. “Each of us signed a paper,” said Lilibeth. “We promised to work here; we would be well paid and could send our money to our families. The promise was for one year and then we would return to our homes. I have worked for Sheik Mustaf for five years and received no money.”
“It seems this is a matter for the authorities,” I said, wondering why Mary had involved me.
Lilibeth looked at the other women before continuing. “At night I am locked in my room by the sheik’s manservant and allowed no friends or family. And for the other ladies it is the same. We would be beaten if they recaptured us.”
Mary brushed the tears from her cheeks. “The only way they could communicate was at church. They first became acquainted at St. Barnabus but it wasn’t until Father Salvatore visited from St. Michael’s and sensed their predicament that they felt hope.”
I looked at Edward who leaned against the doorway, clenching and unclenching his fists. I expected Darcy would have the same reaction when he heard their awful story.
Lowering my voice, I reached out to touch Lilibeth. She extended her hand to meet mine. “Who is responsible for this horrid plan, this slavery?”
Lilibeth hesitated as if afraid to say the name. She withdrew her hand from mine and wrapped her arms around her tiny body. Her voice came out barely a whisper. “Sophia Serpenti. She comes to the villages and takes women away promising good jobs in London. But now I know the women who follow The Serpent are never seen again. Our families must think we are dead.”
A kettle whistled and Mary went to prepare the tea.
“Why did you not go to the police?” I said, not understanding their hesitation.
The others nodded, encouraging Lilibeth to tell their story. “We were afraid. The bosses took our passports and all our papers; they told us they would hold them until we were returned to the Philippines. We knew that without our papers we have nothing. When we asked to return home, our bosses told us the police would put us in jail as illegals. They would not give us our passports.”
The other women nodded as they held their teacups in shaky hands.
“The Serpent told us if we caused any trouble our families would be made to suffer. And so we remained silent.”
Lilibeth continued their story. “The only time we could leave our bosses’ homes was for Sunday Mass at St. Barnabus. But we were always taken by a van and watched by the bosses’ people. They did not understand our language and so we talked of our sorrow as we prayed.”
This was slavery and under our very eyes. How had this been kept a secret from Londoners?
Riza leaned forward, more angry than fearful. “Father Salvatore visited St. Barnabus one Sunday. He looked at our sadness and he knew. Before Mass he invited me into the confessional box. He promised to get us all home again. She made the sign of the cross. We thank the good Father for guiding us this far.”
Lilibeth picked up the story. “Father Salvatore has helped many people to leave their wicked bosses by smuggling them to another country. There they are given papers, and returned by boat to their families. Tonight he waits to help us.”
Tears filled Divina’s eyes. “I have not seen my daughters for two years.”
I heard the giggle of a child coming from another room.
Lilibeth motioned toward the sound. “That is Kidlat. He is Flora’s son. The boy is four years old and tonight is the first time he has met his mother.”
I knew I looked puzzled as Lilibeth gave me a tolerant smile. “Flora did not know she carried a baby in her womb when she signed the paper with The Serpent. It was only once she had been working for that evil family for three months that she found out.” She patted the younger woman’s hand.
“The Serpent was very angry when she learned of Kidlat’s coming. When he was born she made Flora put him in a…how you say…home for orphans? Only last month Miss Mary found him and brought him to her home. The child is why we stopped here before going on to St. Michael’s. We are taking the boy with us.”