Elizabeth Bennet is determined to pursue her education and career without letting a man get in the way. When her traveling companion drops out, her planned hike on the Appalachian Trial is jeopardized. She meets the spoiled, snobby William Darcy just when he is desperate to escape the spotlight. No one will suspect that the Prince of Manhattan has gone backpacking! Darcy and Elizabeth form a tenuous partnership and begin a 300-mile journey that will transform them both.
In classic romantic comedy tradition, Boots & Backpacks follows our reluctant partners as they build trust, friendship, and even more. Six weeks together on America’s most famous hiking trail may turn out to be just what these two need!
Excerpt from Boots and Backpacks
Notes: Previous excerpts have been posted on K.C. Kahler's blog, at So Little Time, and at More Agreeably Engaged.
Some colorful language has been abridged in consideration of the conservative readers of The Calico Critic and is not in the original text.
This is the scene in Chapter 4 that sets the rest of the story in motion. Darcy is hiding out from the press at Elizabeth’s apartment, and Elizabeth just lost her hiking partner, George, to bad behavior.
* * *
Distance from New York City: 25 miles
Forced matrimony in: 59 days
“You eat a lot for a girl.” Where the hell did she put it? No place that Darcy could see.
She laughed. “I’m trying to fatten myself up before my backpacking trip. Believe me, I’ll burn off all these calories and then some.”
“Are you really hiking to Virginia?”
“My mom got that wrong, actually. I’m hiking to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.”
“But that’s still hundreds of miles away.”
“That’s the point.”
“Have you done this sort of thing before?”
He waited as she chewed a forkful of food. “I did four weeks on the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado with a friend last year. And I’ve done shorter trips on the Appalachian Trail with Jane. This will be my longest hike so far: almost three hundred miles.”
“So when’s your birthday?”
“Tuesday. You really ask a lot of quest—” She jumped up at the sound of her cell phone ringing in the living room. Darcy stayed put while she ran off.
“Jane! How’s Chicago?” Elizabeth probably didn’t realize how easy it was for Darcy to hear her end of the conversation.
“Nothing much. I worked today at the store…yeah, I’m packing tonight…Oh, what did Aunt Maddy tell you about George?
“Yeah, on his ratty couch too…I know!” She laughed, but her laughter ended abruptly.
“Of course I can. Don’t be so overprotective…Bears? Are you seriously trying to make me afraid of bears?” Darcy thought she was pacing, from the variable sound of her voice.
“But…How could I possibly find someone now…I have everything planned out perfectly.”
She groaned. “Jaa-aane, you’re being ridiculous! I have to go—you understand that. I have to!
“No, I won’t make such a dumb promise…Please don’t pull this mother hen s***…Don’t say that.” She sounded more defeated with every word she uttered. Darcy wondered whether there was a trick to winning an argument with her. If so, he’d like to know it.
“Ugh. I promise I won’t go alone. There. Are you happy now?” There was a long silence.
Elizabeth sighed. “Only for you, Jane. Only for you…Yeah, me too. Have a hot fling with a hot realtor while you’re there…okay. Bye.”
Darcy imagined Elizabeth slumped on the couch, looking over her carefully sorted piles of hiking gear. So she’d promised her sister she wouldn’t hike 300 miles alone. Obviously, that was the sensible choice, but Darcy felt bad for her. It seemed like she really wanted to go.
As he finished his beer, she came back into the kitchen. “Are you done with your dinner?” All of the liveliness was gone from her voice.
“Yes, thank you.”
Elizabeth cleared the dishes, and stood rinsing them. She spoke over her shoulder, “Do you want to watch TV or something?” Or something, he thought as he ogled her a**.
She loaded the dishwasher, and Darcy followed her into the living room where she plopped down on one end of the couch. He took the other end. She flipped through the channels absent-mindedly, throwing glances at him every so often. It was interfering with his open admiration of her tanned legs, which she had stretched out in front of her.
“What?” he asked.
“I get to ask some questions now. When is your birthday?”
She couldn’t have chosen a worse topic, but he had been asking her a lot of questions. He didn’t know why he found her so fascinating. “November Sixth.”
“And you’re going to a singles resort until then?”
“It’s getting too unpleasant for me to stay in New York.”
“Do you have your wedding planned and everything?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“It’s a big decision. You don’t have to tell me about it, but I assume you’ve decided on something?”
“So you want to escape the spotlight for two months.”
She fell silent. Darcy loosened his tie and stood up to take off his jacket.
“Oh! You must be uncomfortable.”
He shrugged as he sat down again. “I’m fine.”
She stared at him long enough to unnerve him. He had no idea what she was thinking. Then she stood and went to the pile of stuff. “I think you’re about the same size as George. Here, these are clean.” She threw a t-shirt and a pair of gym shorts at him.
“Thanks. Is there a new toothbrush in there?”
“Yeah, let me find it.” She rummaged around and then triumphantly held up a toothbrush. He stood as she came around the pile toward him. Their hands brushed when she gave it to him.
G**, he wanted her. This attraction couldn’t be one-sided, could it? No, not with the way she was looking at him. He’d started off badly a month ago, but this was salvageable. Somehow, he would get Miss Nice A** into bed.
“You should come with me,” they said simultaneously.
They each took a step back, and again spoke in chorus. “What?!”
Darcy shook his head, “You can’t be serious.”
“That’s what I was about to say.”
“Look, I heard you promise your sister you wouldn’t do your hike alone. Before you get all bent out of shape, I wasn’t trying to listen. I was just sitting in there and I heard you. So you have six weeks to kill. Spend them with me in luxury. We can go anywhere you want. I’ll pay for everything.”
“I want to go on my hike.”
“That’s not exactly the kind of luxury I had in mind.”
“Well, that’s the only trip I’m going to take, and it’s really your best option.”
She motioned for him to sit. “I’ve already been dismissed by Gwen. She thinks I’m going to Virginia with George. Nobody knows you’re here, and no one would ever think to look for you on the Appalachian Trail. You’ll be free of those people for six whole weeks.”
“I can be free of them anyway. I’ll charter a plane and—”
“Airports keep flight logs, and the press will find you through them.”
“But the type of place I’d go would have security, so even if they knew where I was, they couldn’t get to me.”
“Instead of being trapped in your apartment, you’ll be trapped in some resort. That’s hardly freedom.”
Were Bingley and Miss Nice A** consorting against him? “I don’t want to hike for six weeks. I’d rather go to a resort.” “So you want to spend your last hurrah exactly as you’ve spent your whole life prior to now, and how you’ll probably spend your entire future.” “You mean comfortably and pleasantly?” “I mean sheltered, catered to, lied to, and having your a** kissed just because of your famous name and your parents’ money.”
J****—she was harsh. “I’m the normal one here for not wanting to walk for three hundred miles. It’s a stupid goal, by the way.”
“If you ever set some goals for yourself, you’ll be in a better position to judge mine.”
“Oh, aren’t you the expert now. Been doing a little research about me since our last meeting?”
“I don’t need gossip rags to tell me any of this. You aren’t that hard to read, Darcy. If you go on this hike, I guarantee you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something and seen something by the end of it.”
“Please. I’ve seen more of the country, more of the world, than you ever will.”
“And yet, you’re still miserable.”
He tried to think of something sharp to say in reply, but he couldn’t really argue that point. He was miserable. He wished he knew Jane Bennet’s secret to besting her sister in debate. He decided to try shock. “Will you sleep with me if I go?”
After he let her sputter in outrage for a moment, he interrupted, “Don’t act like such a prude. These are the facts: I have a healthy libido, and six weeks is a long time.” Especially if he was spending 24 hours a day with her and her perfect a**.
She shook her head in dismay. “I’m trying to decide which is worse: spending six weeks with a spoiled horndog or not going at all.”
“You haven’t answered my question.”
“I don’t like you, Darcy. Remember that little requirement?”
“That’s not a no. You might start to like me once you get past your prejudices.”
“Don’t get your hopes up—or anything else. Wait, what prejudices?”
“For starters, you distrust men. You’re not too keen on rich people either.” She blinked, momentarily stunned. It felt good to have the upper hand, even if only for a moment. “You think you’re so hard to read?”
“Whatever. Will you come on the hike or won’t you?”
Darcy took a moment to consider the pros and cons. He certainly liked the idea of confounding Gwen and all the others who had hounded him for the last eight years. He wondered, as the weeks passed, would her Twitter feed get more and more desperate, or would it fizzle into silence? Both possibilities held some appeal.
It might turn out that he actually liked backpacking. At least it would be a new experience. Going to a resort would be the same as staying in New York, except for the prettier location and the hordes kept at a slightly greater distance. But he would still be trapped, penned in. That was the reason he wasn’t enthused about going without Bingley in the first place, the reason why he had been unable to come up with a plan and had found himself wandering in Ridgewood, New Jersey with nowhere to go.
Which brought him to Miss Nice A**. Clearly, she would not go to a resort, but she couldn’t go on her trip alone. So the only way to make her like him, at least enough to get her into bed, was to go on the hike with her. And he definitely wanted to get her into bed.
“Yes. I’ll come.” He held out his hand and she shook it.
International Giveaway: Boots and Packpacks
About the Author, K.C. Kahler
KC Kahler has worked as a writer and editor in both non-profit and academic settings. Until discovering Jane Austen Fan Fiction several years ago, KC’s writing had been limited to the dry and technical, which is a shame, since she considers herself witty and sparkling. Boots & Backpacks is her first published novel.
KC lives on a four-acre slice of Penn’s Woods with her husband and two dogs. They enjoy hiking, gardening, and being beer snobs.
Goodreads: Author Page