This week, something different for my Sunday Snippet. I’m giving you a little sumthin’ sumthin’ from my current Kindle Vella story, THE JANE AUSTEN MURDERS. First, the blurb so you know what’s going on:
Homicide Detective Elizabeth Bennett and senior partner Frank Churchill are called to Longbourne College when the body of student Charlotte Lucas is found bludgeoned to death. Charlotte, a scholarship student had a healthy supply of designer clothes, jewelry, and a safe deposit box loaded with cash. Where did she get them? Charlotte had a very antagonistic relationship with her English professor, Dr. Darcy, and he soon becomes the primary suspect. But did he do it?
Lizzy followed her partner into a vacant row and took a seat on the aisle.
From her vantage point, Darcy’s voice was quite clear as he spoke at the front of the room from behind a podium. Her vision of the professor was restricted, though, due to the height and distance she and Frank were. She could see his hair was dark, his skin light. He wore a nondescript pullover, a sports jacket over that. Trousers, not jeans, covered his legs. He could be tall, she thought. He certainly wasn’t short, with most of his upper body showing above the pulpit.
“Guy’s got good pipes,” Frank said, “for a teacher. Makes it hard to fall asleep listening to someone like that.”
Lizzy understood what he meant. The voice was steeped in a calm, controlled timbre that commanded authority. Darcy wasn’t American, and Lizzy was surprised at that. English, born and bred, if she wasn’t mistaking the accent. A small flicker sparked in her stomach as she listened to him deliver his lecture, never once referring to any notes or cards.
He spoke of love. Tortured, unrequited love, and how it could kill a young woman’s very being through its harsh, unrewarded and unknown existence. To never know what it feels like to have another’s love returned to you in the same vein, at the same measure. A love so strong-willed it could overtake and outstrip a heart and mind of its very desire to live.
A love, so pure, so complete, and so wanting, that it caused nothing but heartache for the one who felt it.
Lizzy blinked a few times. Darcy’s lyrical voice conjured up a daydream where she’d actually seen the picture he was describing.
A young woman, innocent and heartbroken, felled by unrequited love.
She spied her own face atop that imagined female form.
“What?” Frank whispered, turning to her. “What’s wrong?”
A brisk, full shaking of her head almost cleared the fog. “Sorry. I didn’t realize I spoke out loud.”
“You okay? You look a little pasty.”
“Yeah. I think I just need to eat something. I’ll be fine.”
When his eyes narrowed and he continued to stare at her, Lizzy knew he could see more than she liked. She sat forward and heard the bell ring at the same time.
“Good,” she said, rising, hoping he didn’t hear the relief in her sigh. “Let’s go.” She was two rows in front of him by the time he moved to join her.
The students, all female, were gathering up their things and exiting via the bottom amphitheater door. Lizzy watched several make their way to the front of the room to surround their instructor. She slowed, knowing it would be a few moments before the throng thinned. The further she got down the steps, the clearer Darcy’s face became.
She was correct when she took him for tall rather than short. At least six-one, he was a full head above most of the girls swarming around him. On closer inspection, the dark curly hair was flecked with silver at the temples. Unlike Bingley’s, Darcy’s hair was not in need of a trim. Full, perfectly arched brows sat over eyes whose color she had yet to ascertain. His cheeks were etched into two hollows that ended in a square, brick-hard, jaw.
Lizzy stood on the bottom step, hands in her pockets as she and Frank waited for the professor to be free.
“Guy’s got a fan club,” Frank whispered.
“I see that,” she answered, her gaze staying on Darcy, one delicate eyebrow bending upwards in conjunction with the opposite corner of her mouth.
It was at that moment Darcy looked up and their eyes met over the head of one of his students.
His eyes were blue. Solid, deep, and intermingled with shards of silvery gray.
Darcy’s perusal never left her face as the student before him asked a question.
Lizzy realized that neither she nor the professor had blinked once since his gaze found hers. The sting of moisture drying within them, blurry the vision, finally made her lids do their job.
She watched Darcy when her sight cleared and focused again. He shook his head once, blinked a few times and then turned back towards his student, intent on what was being said to him.
“Crowd’s thinning,” Frank said, moving by her towards the podium. “Let’s go.”
Lizzy found her feet a moment later, after first taking a deep breath and rolling her shoulders.
As they moved closer, she heard the poetic lilt of his voice. “Just write what you feel,” he said. “I’m sure it will be fine.”
“Really?” the student asked. The small hairs on the back of Lizzy’s collar screamed to attention at the nasal whine in the young woman’s voice.
“Yes,” he smiled down at her. “Really. Now, you need to get to your next class. Run along.” With that the girl beamed at him, hugged her laptop to her chest and, Lizzy thought, all but floated from the room on a post-adolescent lovesick breeze.
“May I help you?” Darcy asked when the room cleared, his question aimed at Frank.
The senior detective introduced himself and his partner. Darcy acknowledged the presentation with a nod of his head to Frank. Lizzy thought it took him a beat or two longer than it should have before he turned his attention to her.
That same, heated inspection bulldozed through her again..
“What can I do for you?” Darcy asked Frank.
It was Lizzy who answered. “We have some questions about one of your students. Charlotte Lucas.”
She watched his reaction to the name. He slanted his head to one side, his eyes opening a fraction wider. “What about her?”
“She was murdered last night,” Lizzy said.
He gave no outward indication of his feeling for the news, something Lizzy found disturbing.
“You don’t seem surprised or upset,” she said.
“Actually, I’m both,” he said. “It’s not every day one hears that a student has been killed.”
“Murdered,” she countered.
That piercing gaze zeroed in on her face as he nodded, once. “Murdered. What happened?”
“We ask the questions, Professor,” Lizzy said, rocking back on her heels.
It took him a moment to reply. In the interim, Lizzy watched the muscle under his left ear snap, making his jaw clench and tighten.
With a small nod, that Lizzy thought might be mocking, Darcy said, “Of course, Detective Bennet. I apologize. How can I help?”
“Miss Lucas was a student in your Jane Austen class, yes?”
“And she was in class last evening?”
“We understand that the two of you had an argument during class and that Miss Lucas left before dismissal. Is that correct?”
Darcy leaned against the podium, laying his elbows on it, hands folded. “I wouldn’t classify our discussion as an argument. It was more a spirited difference of opinion.”
“What was this spirited difference of opinion about?” Frank asked.
Darcy exhaled and waited a few heartbeats before replying. “It was really a continuation of a theme that ran through Charlotte’s work the entire semester.”
To Lizzy’s ears, his voice took on a strained quality, as if it were an effort for him to continue.
If you subscribe to Kindle Vella, you can read the story here – three new episodes are released every week. THE JANE AUSTEN MURDERS