A peek into the future…
I had the honor of participating with 23 other authors in “The 12 (Historical) Days of Christmas” sponsored by two romance blogs,Ramblings from This Chick and Not Another Romance Blog. The stories have been just wonderful. I thought I’d share my scene here also as a quick Christmas present, and wish you the happiest of holidays and a fruitful new year! If you go over to the blogs and comment, you’ll be entered for prizes. Extra presents, always a good thing!
Some background: Ned Christie (Edward Allerton Christie the Younger) makes his debut in Mistress by Marriage, drunk and despondent about the restrictions placed on him by his strict father, especially his arranged marriage. He’s been engaged since the cradle to his cousin Amelia. I know, I know, the cousin thing is icky but historically correct, LOL. Here he is a few years later, sober and about to be seduced by the last person he ever thought to kiss–his own fiancee.
It was so much fun to add a little something to the Christie history. Enjoy!
A Christie Christmas Kiss
He knew that voice. It belonged to his dreaded cousin Amelia, the one person he wanted to avoid at his family’s infernal Christmas party.
She was his betrothed. His unwanted betrothed. He hadn’t seen her since he got sent down from Cambridge two years ago for putting frogs in the turtle soup at the convocation banquet. They were all amphibians, what? Of course the frogs had not liked the temperature much and there had been a great deal of hopping and mess, just as he’d hoped. His stuffy papa Lord Edward Christie had sent him away on his Grand Tour immediately thereafter in the hopes he’d learn to “behave like a proper Christie.”
The poor old blighter was doomed to disappointment, expecting a miracle. Let him try anew with Jack and their new baby half-brothers. His father was still churning infants out with Ned’s stepmother Caroline—she was as big as a barn and due to give birth again any minute—and Christie Park was a cacophony of squalling children and cats. His younger sister Allie was in her element, ordering everyone around like a drill sergeant.
“It’s Ned, now,” Ned muttered. Trust Amelia to infantilize him. She always had to have the upper hand. The last word. Which was rich, coming from such an uninspiring, insipid female. He turned to offer her a withering stare and some haughty words, and his jaw dropped.
Amelia used to be a flat-chested lackwit. He wasn’t sure about her wits, but something had happened to her chest. In the two years he’d been wandering the mountainous Continent, her own topography had changed.
“I need you, Neddie. Caroline wants some mistletoe for the drawing room and I’ve found the perfect bunch, but I can’t reach it. You’re much taller than I. It’s up in that fir tree over there, see? Go get a ladder.”
Not even a ‘please.’
He gave her a frigid glare. “I’m busy, Amelia.”
She snorted. “You haven’t done a useful thing since you’ve come home except avoid me. Don’t worry, I don’t want to marry an idiot like you either. My father and Uncle Edward must be mad to think we’d ever suit.”
Ned felt himself flush at the insult. An idiot! Who on earth did Amelia think she was? She was just a mousy-haired know-nothing girl he’d grown up and completely bored with.
“Don’t stare at me as if I’ve grown two heads! It’s for your stepmother, Neddie. She wants this Christmas to be perfect and she isn’t feeling well.”
It was not two heads Amelia had grown but two breasts, which heaved with indignation. Ned supposed he’d better fetch a ladder from the gardener’s shed. Since his father and Caroline had reunited several years ago, she had tried to be the ideal wife and stepmother. Caroline was a good egg—if she could put up with his dull father and wanted mistletoe, Ned thought he could manage a few minutes with the dreaded Amelia and get it.
He loped across the lawn and returned with the ladder. Amelia had folded her arms over her chest against the cold which was a bit of a shame, but Ned needed to concentrate on his climb. He reached the clump of leaves and waxy berries and dug into his pocket for the Swiss penknife he’d picked up on his travels.
Suddenly the ladder shook and pitched to the side. Ned’s foot slipped and he found himself holding on to the top of the pine tree as the ladder crashed to the ground.
He couldn’t believe it! She’d knocked the ladder out from under him. “Amelia! Do you want to kill me?”
“I wouldn’t much mind! That’s for staring at my bosom like a slavering dog!”
“I didn’t—I wouldn’t,” Ned sputtered, a little ashamed he’d been found out.
“I’ve changed, Neddie. The man who is fortunate enough to marry me will have to do more than blindly go along with an ancient betrothal contract.”
“I’ve changed too! And I’m not going along blindly with anything,” Ned said, shutting his eyes and gripping the tree harder as the sharp needles pierced through his jacket.
“Good, then we understand each other. I wish to be wooed, Neddie. You may be the man to do it, although I very much doubt it.”
“I can woo with the best of them,” Ned said hotly. That had been an integral part of his Grand Tour, although he kept such information from his puritanical father in his letters home.
“We shall see.”
Ned heard branches rustle and felt the ladder knock into his thigh. Stepping on it gratefully, he sliced the mistletoe from its host and watched it drop to the ground, berries flying. He clambered down as fast as a monkey and took a startled Amelia in his arms.
“We shall see. Right now,” he said.
And then he kissed her. She didn’t know a thing about kissing, but he could teach her. He didn’t need mistletoe, but time. She lived right next door, after all.
Ned stopped estimating the number of minutes and footsteps from Christie Park to Uncle Roger’s estate and concentrated on the warm, soft girl in his arms. Good Lord, he was kissing the dreaded Amelia and enjoying it right to the roots of his disordered dark hair. His scalp and other places tingled not from the chill December air but something much more elemental. She fit against him like she’d been formed from clouds and spun sugar to nestle into his every nook and cranny. She tasted like sugar, too—Ned had no idea what clouds would taste like but they were probably delicious also.
“Neddie,” she whispered, once he was reluctantly forced to stop before he disgraced himself. Her golden lashes fluttered in adorable confusion on her pink cheeks. He couldn’t remember exactly why he’d thought she was an antidote, but he’d been a young fool then. He was a man now, with a man’s needs.
And Amelia was his betrothed.
“We will marry in the spring. I will woo you until then.” He bent to pick up the mistletoe and hoped she wouldn’t recognize his straining manhood.
She touched her swollen lips with a finger. “I-I’m not sure. This is so sudden.”
“I’m sure. And it’s hardly sudden. We’ve been engaged since you were in nappies.”
“So were you,” Amelia reminded him. Always the last word.
“Yes, well. We’re both grown up now. It’s time we thought about setting up our own nursery.”
Good grief. He was sounding just like his father. Ned might have fled from being a Christie, but he had not gotten very far.
“Let’s go inside and hang this. I have a mind to kiss you again, Amelia.” And again, as often as possible, until the dreaded Amelia became his wedded wife and he could do what he really wanted.
This time he didn’t want to run away at the sound of her voice. His father would be pleased. It was true—Christmas was a time for miracles.