A Lonely Courtesan on Christmas Eve - Karen Erickson
Romance author Karen Erickson writes what she loves to read — sexy contemporary romance and sensual historical romance. Digitally published since 2006, she currently writes for Samhain Publishing, Entangled Publishing’s Bliss Imprint, Avon Impulse and Carina Press. A native Californian, she lives in the foothills below Yosemite with her husband and three children.
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Life as a courtesan can be lonely enough…but the emotion is made even worse during the Christmas season. Poor, widowed Anne Lange has transformed herself into the most coveted courtesan in all of London. But whom she really wants is out of her reach.
Or so she thinks…
The Lonely Courtesan
by Karen Erickson
Standing by the window, Anne placed her hand on the frigid glass, huddling in the too-thin wrapper she wore. Outside it snowed, the white flakes falling from the sky so thick she could hardly see.
Disappointment crashed through her and she pressed her forehead against the glass, the cold shocking against her flesh. He wouldn’t come tonight. Not that she believed he would, what with it being Christmas Eve and all but the weather had proven most impossible to travel in. She knew she would be spending the holiday evening alone.
With a sigh she stepped back from the window, letting the curtain fall. Nearby, a fire blazed merrily, chasing the chill from the air. The grand bed in the center of the room beckoned, covered in sumptuous fabrics, plump pillows with cool, crisp sheets nestled within.
Memories flooded her. The bed where they had lazily spent many an evening, wrapped in each other’s arms, their bare legs tangled, their mouths aligned perfectly so one of them could steal an occasional, lingering kiss. Murmuring hot words in each other’s ears before finally he became impatient and rolled her beneath him…
Tonight, their bed remained empty. She almost didn’t want to sleep there, for it would remind her of how much she missed him. Her gloriously handsome Lord Huxley, with his twinkling, intelligent eyes and lush mouth that always smiled at her.
When it wasn’t kissing her…
A shiver moved down her spine and she tugged her wrapper closer. She’d dressed for him, of course. Thin silk wrapper, silkier gown beneath, one that bared plenty of her flesh, just as he preferred. Ever hopeful he would make his appearance as promised. The missive she’d received first thing this morning had been brief but appreciated just the same.
I shall see you this evening, my love. Be prepared for a most coveted gift. – H
That he called her my love did not go unnoticed, but she refused to let her hopeful heart believe. A term of endearment, nothing more, nothing less.
Besides, Huxley probably meant to give her jewelry. A glittery bauble to distract her, soothe her, for didn’t all titled gentlemen believe their ladybirds preferred an obscenely large piece of jewelry? He hadn’t a clue the gift she coveted most of all was the one he would never be able to give her.
A firm knock sounded at the door and she whirled around, clutching the front of her wrapper tight. Who could it be? No one in their right mind would travel on a night such as this. She’d sent her staff of three to their homes earlier to beat the storm so that they may be with their families for the holiday.
Who would have the nerve to break into her townhouse, trudge up the stairs and pound on her bedchamber door so hard it rattled?
Realization dawned as joy burst inside her chest. She ran to the door, throwing it open to find the very man she’d been dreaming of standing before her. His golden brown hair covered with a smattering of snow as well as his broad shoulders. Looking damp and rumpled and so terribly handsome she wanted to throw her arms around him and never let him go.
But she didn’t. He had expectations, after all. And a lovesick courtesan was not one of them.
Stiffening her shoulders, she stood tall, a thrill moving through her at the appreciative glance he slid down the length of her body. “My lord. I thought the storm would deter you from traveling this evening.”
He smiled, the sight of it sending a sharp arrow piercing through her heart. “Nothing could deter me from falling into your arms on this most dreadful evening, my dearest Anne.”
She gasped when he pulled her into him, holding her close to his hard, warm body. Inhaling sharply, she breathed in his intoxicating scent, closing her eyes as she wound her arms around him. “I’m glad you came, Huxley.”
“Not even the worst storm of the year could keep me from you,” he murmured close to her ear, pulling away the slightest bit so he could meet her gaze. A frown marred his features. “Is something wrong?”
“I’m fine.” She nodded, offered him a brief smile. “I was just…worried.”
“Afraid I wouldn’t be able to come?” He stroked the top of her head, his long fingers catching in her hair. “I promised I would.”
“But you have family to spend time with. Your sister…” Was married to the Marquess of Hartwell. It was surely expected Huxley would be in attendance for their family celebration.
He shrugged, the lazy smile curling his lips momentarily stealing her breath. “I told them I had a previous engagement.”
That he would defy his sister and brother-in-law for her meant more than she could ever express. Her heart lightened, threatened to soar completely out of her body and she gripped the back of his neck. Pulled him down for a thorough kiss that made him smile when they finally broke apart.
“And what did I do to earn such an enthusiastic kiss, my love?” he murmured, his mouth sliding along the length of her neck.
She shivered from the decadent touch of his hot, damp mouth. “Just being here is enough for me,” she sighed.
“Hmm, well wait until you see the gift I brought for you.” He laughed when she withdrew from his embrace, her eyes wide with shock. “Perhaps I shall give it to you later?”
“I prefer it now, please.” She clasped her hands in front of her, anxious to get it over with. If it was a sapphire necklace to match her eyes, she would do her best to fight her disappointment. Oh, she sounded ungrateful but truly, gemstones meant nothing if she couldn’t have the love of this one special man.
“Here you go.” He presented her with a small box wrapped in simple brown paper. She took it from him, tore the wrapper with shaking fingers, lifted the lid and gasped when she saw what was inside.
A simple gold band, with not a stone in sight.
“Marry me, Anne,” he murmured, his gaze warm when it met hers.
It was her every dream come true but… “You know what I am, Hugh,” she murmured. “What would your family think of you marrying a courtesan?”
“I could give a hang of what they think. I want to marry you.” He plucked the ring from the box, held it between his fingers. “I love you.”
All the breath left her body in a tremendous gush and she couldn’t speak. Could only stare as he took her hand, slid the ring on her trembling finger and then pulled her into him, dropping a kiss on her quivering mouth. “No need for tears, love,” he whispered. “We shall be married by the new year, my future Lady Huxley. What do you think of that?”
“I think it’s…wonderful.” She smiled, her heart so full she was afraid it might burst. “I love you so much, Hugh.”
“Happy Christmas,” he murmured, taking her mouth in a soul-stirring kiss as he led her toward the bed.
Happy Christmas indeed.
The holidays are a time for wishes, magic and, of course, love. Celebrate the season with this delightful collection of Christmas tales. What better way for Connor Talbot, Earl of Redfirn, to spend the holidays than convincing Leonora Compton that the only match she needs to make is with him!
(Karen’s story) The Duke of Ashton has had three years to plan for his perfect Christmas present—the Lady Eleanor Fitzsimmons as his wife. Now, all he has to do is convince the reluctant lady …
Phin Baldwin does not believe in Christmas magic … until the clever and beautiful Ginny Overton gets it into her head to show him how wonderful it can be when wishes come true.
Just returned from the Crusades, marriage is the last thing on Sir Caerwyn’s mind. But will he be able to resist Lady Nia, the thief of his boyhood heart, when she tempts him yet again?
Responsible Ethan Weatherstone is determined to save Penelope Rutledge—and her reputation—from her silly scheme, but can he save himself from the temptation of her lips?
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