Not a full one, but enough to get you off the cliff…
Branches snapped in his face, determined to keep him from her. He slapped them away, growling under his breath. He could not get to her quickly enough. She was splattered with mud and was that—yes it was, blood. His guts knotted. Her dress was torn, face scratched and hair disheveled. Cold pooled in his belly, aching, dreading. He skidded to a stop before her.
“Are you injured? What happened?” He huffed the words through heavy pants.
She blinked several times. Did not recognize him?
“Mr. Darcy? Colonel?” Her voice was more a plea for help than a greeting.
“What happened, Miss Elizabeth?” Fitzwilliam asked over Darcy’s shoulder.
Her gown gaped open, revealing the lace of her chemisette. Darcy stripped off his coat. He draped it over her shoulders and pulled it tight around her. “You are bleeding.”
She looked down at her hands and gown and shook her head. “No—it is not mine—it is Wickham’s.”
Ten heartbeats passed.
Fitzwilliam dashed for his horse. “Stay with her—no get her back to the house, I will deal with him.” He urged his horse into a trot and rode away in the direction she had pointed.
She clutched Darcy’s coat to her. “I did not—he grabbed me—used my knife.”
He flexed his hands into fists. “I will see him run out of the county for this. I cannot tell you how sorry I am that I introduced him to your family.”
She looked up at him with eyes wide and vulnerable, so very vulnerable. “You did not believe him—what he told you this morning?”
He gasped. “No, heavens no!”
Her eyes filled with tears and she choked on a sob.
Bennet might have his hide for it, but dash it all—He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tight into his chest. She nestled into his shoulder and shuddered. He stroked her back, willing his hand gently while his belly roiled. What had Wickham done?