What is it about taboo relationships that makes them so appealing? It has to be more than loving the bad boy or thumbing your nose at society. When we put ourselves in the shoes of Bella from Twilight, what are we feeling? Is it the delicious sensation of doing what we know is wrong? The danger of risking that we might have read the other person wrong? Or is it the inspiration of having the courage to follow our hearts, even when we know it’s not in our best interests? In my book The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy, it’s a little bit of everything.
Elizabeth, an attorney, finds herself attracted to Darcy, a judge before whom she regularly appears. The ethical conflict inherent in their relationship is immediately apparent: everyone will assume that Darcy’s feelings for Elizabeth will influence his decisions either for or against her. The decision to give in to temptation - to do what they know is forbidden - is wildly uncharacteristic of both Elizabeth and Darcy. Each justifies their decision by convincing themselves that they deserve the chance to have a little fun, that it won’t mean anything, and that they can act on their desire without emotional attachment.
They both find crossing that line to be liberating, exhilarating, and unforgettable. But neither leaves the affair untouched, and returning to everyday life is not as easy as they thought it would be:
The next day, anticipation sat like a lead weight in her gut as Elizabeth steeled herself for her first glimpse of Darcy. When he strode into the courtroom, the other attorney said cheerfully,
“Welcome back, Your Honor. Do anything fun on your vacation?”
In their other world—the world where she was Lizzy and he was Will—he would have made a joke about doing her. But they were back in the real world, and Darcy only replied with a low “Thank you, Mr. Johnson.” His eyes flicked to her, then to his desk. “Good morning, Ms. Bennet.”
It doesn’t get any better:
Friday saw Darcy in his worst mood yet. He reduced one attorney to tears and ejected another from the courtroom for not knowing the rules of evidence—all before lunch. In the hallway outside, attorneys whispered warnings and passed wary glances at each other. By the time Elizabeth arrived for her afternoon trial, an ominous silence had fallen over the courtroom.
Past experience had taught Elizabeth that she had better be well-prepared for a trial with Darcy, and her current emotional state allowed her to immerse herself in obscure case law. She was the most thoroughly prepared she had ever been.
All her legal research did not, however, prepare her for Darcy’s anger. His face was a dark cloud threatening a storm as he called the case to order. She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders, and before long they were sparring like never before. He overruled her objections and she put them on the record for appeal. Their voices rose over each other, even to the concern of the other parties. They wrangled over evidence, with Darcy ruling in favor of Elizabeth’s opponent. When she persevered in her arguments, Darcy glared at her.
“Ms. Bennet, you are walking a very fine line today,” he said in a dangerous tone.
“What planet’s laws are you following?” she finally exclaimed in exasperation, throwing her hands up in the air. A hush fell over the already quiet courtroom. Darcy’s face reddened, and he stood up.
“I am calling a five-minute recess.” He tossed his gavel on the bench. “Ms. Bennet, I’ll see you in my chambers. Now.” His tone brooked no argument. The opposing counsel stood to follow them.
Elizabeth’s face flushed, and she slammed her file on her table before following Darcy to his chambers. Both walked in silence, their body language exuding fury as they passed his secretary. He opened the door to his office and closed it firmly after she had stepped in.
“Elizabeth, what the hell are you doing out there?”
“I’m preserving my case for appeal from your misguided rulings.”
“Your objections are baseless, and you’re not laying the foundation for your evidence.”
“You’re ruling against me just to prove you’re not playing favorites.”
The conversation would have been perfectly normal if he hadn’t swept her into his arms and started kissing her hungrily as soon as the door was closed. Completely forgetting her determination to resist him, she returned his kisses eagerly.
“Why won’t you return my calls?” he asked her between kisses.
“It’s over, remember? It was all a dream,” she answered huskily.
“No, that was the reality, this is the nightmare. I don’t want to do this anymore.” He stepped back from her, breathing heavily. His hair was mussed from her grabbing fingers.
“I don’t, either. You promised it would end when we got back,” she said in a low voice. “This is unethical.”
“Elizabeth, I can’t do this. I need to see you. We’ll work something out.”
“I can’t see any way out,” she stated. She put a hand to his face and wiped away a smudge of lipstick then smoothed down his hair. He pulled her suit jacket back in place.
“I’ll think of something,” he said and opened the door, cutting off any response she may have had. They returned to the courtroom.
“Mr. Johnson, I am removing myself from this case,” Darcy announced as he returned to his bench.
“What? You can’t do that!” Elizabeth cried.
Mr. Johnson also began to protest. Darcy held up his hand to both of them.
“During my conversation with Ms. Bennet, we discussed the merits of her argument. It was unintentional, but it was an ex parte communication, and I would feel more comfortable removing myself from this case.”
“That’s baloney!” Elizabeth exclaimed hotly. Darcy’s face reddened again, and he glared at her. She recovered herself and lowered her voice. “It was not a conversation on the merits; it was a technical point.”
“Ms. Bennet, would you like to return to my chambers and rehash our conversation or would you like me to sanction you now?” he said through gritted teeth, the dangerous tone creeping back into his voice. Her temper flared again. She pulled her checkbook out of her purse.
“Should I make the check to F. Darcy? Middle initial U?” she retorted angrily. He threw the gavel on his bench.
“Chambers. NOW!” he ground out, pointing at the hallway. She followed him, aware they were leaving a courtroom of gaping disbelief in their wake.
He closed the door and pulled her into his arms again, kissing her.
“I cannot be on this case,” he said as he nuzzled her ear.
“Not after that, you can’t,” she admitted, chagrined. She rolled her head back to expose the tender flesh of her neck to him.
“Please see me tonight,” he said huskily against her jawline.
He was kissing her throat now. “I need to see you. Please.” Her fingers had again curled in his wavy hair, and she hungrily sought his kisses.
“Will, this can’t work.”
“It can, we just have to make it work,” he reassured her. He put his lips to hers again and gave her a passionate, probing kiss that seemed to suck the willpower out of her. His hands were beneath her suit jacket, splayed across her back. Then he slid one hand down to cup her bottom.
“Lizzy, please, I need you,” he whispered in her ear.
Unable to resist her feelings, Elizabeth agrees to see Darcy one last time:
They made love as twilight fell, and lay wrapped in each other’s arms as darkness settled around them. Darcy’s ragged breathing calmed, and his finger traced tender, lazy circles on her arm. Elizabeth pressed her nose into his neck and savored what she knew were the last moments of this affair.
“My term ends next April.” His hushed voice broke the silence. “We could wait until then to be together.”
She let out a quiet, humorless laugh. “Aren’t we closing the barn door after the horse is already out?”
“I’m trying to do the right thing.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I don’t know if I can wait for that long.”
“No. I won’t sneak around.”
“No. Of course not, I’m sorry. I don’t know what I’m saying.”
They fell into another silence.
“You could look into another area of law, one where we wouldn’t have a conflict,” he suggested.
“And give up everything that I’ve worked for?” She sat up and looked indignantly at him. “Why am I the one who has to sacrifice everything? Why don’t you quit?”
“I can’t quit, we’re already short two judges!” He looked at the ceiling and rubbed his eyes. “I have a responsibility. I can’t quit.”
“I have responsibilities too. I have clients who expect me to fight for them. I can’t just dump them because I want to sleep with the judge.”
Darcy nodded and Elizabeth settled back into his side, nestling her head against his shoulder.
“What do we do, then?” he finally asked.
“What we both know we have to do.”
“I can’t end this.”
“Then I will.” She sat up and pushed her hair from her face before swinging her feet over the edge of the bed. She shoved her arms through her shirt and jerked it over her chest. “It’s not in either of our characters to lie and deceive everyone. You know as well as I do that it has to end.” She stood and shimmied into her skirt before scuffing into her sandals. Darcy sat up and glared at her as she walked toward the door.
“And I’m supposed to just accept that? To see you every day and pretend that nothing ever happened? How is that any less a lie?”
Elizabeth paused and said over her shoulder, “It was always a lie, Will. We both knew what we were doing was wrong, but we were too selfish to stop. Now we’re too selfish to make it work. It’s just the price we have to pay.”
Then she left.
© Sara Angelini, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2009
Each learns that they cannot be true to themselves while deceiving the rest of the world, and this makes their love impossible. But in Romanceland, we as readers know that our heroes will resolve their conflict and arrive at a happy ending. So why do we keep reading about the taboo relationship? What keeps pulling us back?
For some, it’s the appeal of healing the broken hero. For others it is the sacrifices made for love. For me, it’s that ultimately the courage of characters who choose to trust their instincts that the person they love is the right person for them. It takes a lot of guts to love someone, and even more to love someone who is forbidden.
The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy—in stores October 2009!
A sexy, bold adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice that re-paints favorite characters in twenty-first century colors
Judge Fitzwilliam Darcy, a legal expert on both sides of the Atlantic, is ready to hang up his black robe and return to the life of a country gentleman—until he meets Elizabeth Bennet, a fresh-faced attorney with a hectic schedule and no time for the sexy but haughty judge.
Tempers and sparks fly in Judge Darcy's courtroom— and outside, in a series of chance encounters that give each of them pause—as the two match wits and try to fight their overwhelming attraction. When they meet up in England at an international law conference, they embark on a hot, heavy affair. Back in the States, though, ethical considerations intrude, and each is subjected to a torturous period of soul-searching before they can find their way back to each other...
About the Author
Sara Angelini is an attorney living in the San Francisco Bay area. After earning an MS in Animal Sciences, she decided against becoming a veterinarian when she realized she only liked her own pets and moved to California with her husband to pursue law school. She is working on her third novel.
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