A Romantic Proposal on Christmas Eve - Elise Rome
Elise Rome has never forgiven Margaret Mitchell for making her fall in love with Scarlett and Rhett in Gone with the Wind and then not giving them a happy ending. She likes to think that she makes up for this injustice with each romance novel she writes. When she isn't telling stories about sexy, headstrong heroes and intelligent, independent heroines, Elise stays busy chasing after her two young daughters, semi-attempting to do housework, and hiking in the beautiful foothills of Colorado. She, also, unashamedly, adores her readers.
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When I first received the email from Dani and Rita telling me the theme I’d been given for the Historical Christmas Eve event and saw that it was “A Romantic Proposal on Christmas Eve”, I knew it would be a challenge. My couple’s already in love and ready for marriage? Oh, no! What about conflict? What about tension? What about ANGST?
Of course, I could have written the romantic proposal for a couple that wasn’t the hero and heroine of the scene, but I actually like challenges. =)
The following scene is of a hero and heroine who don’t exist in any book or story idea I’ve ever had. Luckily, despite my fears, they were able to supply me with plenty of angst for our holiday celebration. I hope you enjoy my take on “A Romantic Proposal on Christmas Eve”. =)
In the spring, leaf buds found new branches to climb and birds gathered along the fragile shoots, chirping at the fish that swam unaware below.
In the summer, leaf shade dappled water so clear that if one stared long enough, one could be convinced the leaves lay at the bottom of the stream instead of hovering above, waving like freshwater seaweed to the sun.
In the autumn, a parade of red, gold, and orange rode along the water’s wrinkles, the leaves piled one atop another and stretched thick from bank to bank.
And in the winter, ice frosted the bare trees until they appeared painted in glittering black, savage sentries frozen in ranks along the stream’s edge.
Everything that mattered in Kate’s life could be marked by the journey of the seasons here. She’d seen the changes of the water and the trees over the years; she’d charged across the arc of the footbridge and halted at the other end—waiting, both breathless and heartless, until he should appear.
And so it was now, too, on another winter’s evening, on Christmas Eve, waiting for her heart to return.
Tears dashed down her cheeks, an ambush, as if they knew how quickly her fingers would rise to scrub them away. Though she shuddered with the cold, her eyelids felt feverish, aching with effort as she blinked again and again.
No, she would not cry. She must not.
She would give him that, at least. Perhaps she should consider it a wedding gift, since the matching vases she’d picked out had been plucked from their packages and now lay in shards near her bedroom wall.
Her ears alerted her first, straining at the sound of his boots striding across the packed snow. Her eyes discovered him next, a dark stain rushing toward her, form and shadow spreading across the brilliant, glistening white like ink spilled upon parchment.
He crushed her to his chest, and for a moment—the shortest, most impossible moment—Kate allowed herself to do nothing but feel. No thoughts existed, only senses.
Heat, hardness, smoke, brandy, safety, love—
Something possessed her limbs and pushed him away. Self-preservation, perhaps, because she certainly didn’t have the discipline to deny herself his embrace.
She whirled, unable to face him.
She trembled, knowing it would be the last time she would ever see him alone, the last time she’d ever hear her given name on his lips, the last time he’d address her with that singular symphony of desire, possession, and need in his voice. All their secrets would be as shadows beneath a midday sun. Every kiss they’d shared now unimportant ghosts they must banish before the haunting could begin.
Tomorrow she would only be Miss Millbank, and he would be nothing but a neighbor. A husband, also, but not hers.
Heat, like flames licking over coals, enveloped her again: his overcoat, draped across her shoulders.
She’d thought she could do this. Had suffered the long hours of the day, knowing all the while that she would see him tonight. A good-bye, she knew, but one she’d regret forever if she missed it. But suddenly the pain was too much to bear, and she turned and snatched the coat off, thrusting it at him, determined to cauterize the wound now no matter how much it hurt.
She dragged in a breath, but before she could say the words, he took her face in his hands and kissed her.
She flinched as if he’d struck her instead—it was as if he’d taken a whip to the heart that had been his since their first meeting upon the bridge.
“Kate. Kate.” He whispered her name between short, sweet kisses, his lips soothing over hers, seeking to ease her pain. It felt as though time had slowed, prolonging her torture for an eternity, when she knew mere seconds had passed since he’d appeared and wrapped her in his arms.
She should have broken away and ran. If not to her house, at least to the other end of the bridge. Far enough that the distance would allow a different perspective of him: not the man she would marry, but the one her sister would.
Perhaps he might call her Miss Kate, after enough time had passed and they’d spent enough holidays as family.
At this thought, her fingers gripped the lapels of his dinner jacket. And although she knew it to be unfair, they dug into his chest with the punishment she’d reserved for herself thus far—because hadn’t she been the one foolish enough to ask it of him, to spare her sister’s ruination? Even if there had been no alternative, she’d asked it of him. Hopeless, any pretense she might have affected when she’d become a martyr now disappeared.
When a low, desperate noise came from his throat, she wrapped her arms around his waist and latched her hands at his back, surrendering the possibility that she could ever let him go.
“Kate.” He was the first to turn his head aside, his ragged breath showing itself in puffs of air. “Enough.”
Her throat seized at the word—
And seized again when he sank to both knees in the snow, holding her hand like it was an anchor keeping him tethered to her; he couldn’t let go, either.
He flashed a grin in the darkness, but his voice was jagged when he said, “Marry me.”
When she couldn’t speak, for she half convinced herself she must be in bed, and this was all a dream, he said, “Marry me, Kate. Susan is gone, eloped with Buckley. Don’t worry, I hit him first.”
A sharp laugh escaped her—though a bystander might have heard a sob. “My prince.”
The tears she’d tried to suppress earlier tumbled down her cheeks, unheeded. Only when he stood and gently wiped them from her face did she realize they were there. She laughed again. “I can’t… I don’t…
How can you forgive me for asking you to love someone else? Joseph—”
The air cut at her throat. Not one more night to say his name. Forever.
“I agreed to your request once,” he said, “because it hurt you to see her hurt.” Taking both of her hands, he lifted them to his mouth, where he kissed her gloved knuckles tenderly. His gaze, however, was anything but soft; his eyes locked on hers, fierce and unrelenting. “But I will never leave you again. If you ask, I will toss away the key to our bedchamber and keep you there until you realize that I’m only yours.” His pale eyes darkened beneath the moonlight. “And you are mine.”
Kate cleared her throat of the remaining tears that hadn’t been shed. “Our bedchamber?” She smiled, then stepped nearer, until their clouded breaths mingled.
A corner of his mouth tilted upward, and he released one of her hands to wrap an arm around her waist and draw her tight against him. “That is, if you agree to marry me.”
Lowering his head, he touched his lips to hers, waiting only for her slightest response before taking back everything she’d thought they’d given up, their future and their dreams—kissing her, branding her, redeeming her, loving her.
Finally, he lifted his head and replaced his mouth with his thumb, tracing her lower lip. “Kate—”
“Yes.” She’d once resented the tears, but no longer. These were tears of joy. “Yes, of course, yes. Yes, yes, yes!”
Behind them, her answer echoed past the bare tree branches cloaked in ice instead of leaves, against the frozen stream below the snow-steeped footbridge where she’d first lost her heart.
His. It would always be his.
Since my first book as Elise Rome isn't out yet and I don't have a set publication date, I'm giving away one eBook (Amazon, B&N, Kobo, or Apple) from my personal "best reads of 2012" list.
A NOTORIOUS COUNTESS CONFESSES by Julie Anne Long
She rose to spectacular heights . . .
From Covent Garden to courtesan to countess, beautiful, fearless, shamelessly ambitious Evie Duggan has riveted London in every role she plays. But the ton never could forgive her scandalous—if shockingly short—marriage, and when her star plummets amid gleefully vicious gossip, the countess escapes to the only legacy left to her: a manor house in Pennyroyal Green.
He never expected to fall so hard . . .
He has the face of a fallen angel and a smolder the devil would envy, but Vicar Adam Sylvaine walks a precarious line: resisting temptation . . . and the wild Eversea blood in his veins. Adam's strength is tested when scandal, aka the countess, moves to Sussex. But when a woman who fiercely guards her heart and a man entrusted with the souls of an entire town surrender to a forbidden desire, will the sweetest sin lead them to heaven . . . or make outcasts of them forever?
Purchase: | Amazon | Kindle | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository |
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Up For Grabs:
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**Don't forget to head over to Not Another Romance Blog to check out author, Maggie Robinson's story.
Good Luck and Happy Holidays =)