Caught Under the Mistletoe on Christmas Eve - Tiffany Clare
Deciding that life had far more to offer than a nine to five job, bickering children in the evening and housework of any kind, Tiffany Clare opened up her laptop to rediscover her love of the written word. Tiffany writes historical romances set in the Victorian era for St. Martin’s Press. She lives in Toronto with her ever-patient photographer husband, two mischievous children, and two of the world’s cutest dogs . . . ever.
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December 24, 1848
Isabella looked overhead and sidestepped to the left to avoid the mistletoe placed in plain view for anyone passing by. Who in their right mind would hang mistletoe in such an obvious place? And away from the general company? It was quite scandalous.
Casting her eyes about the room, she made sure she was alone before gazing up once more at the offending twig. She should just stand beneath it—of course, no one would dare kiss her. Well, perhaps one of the children running around during the Christmastide celebrations. But she was an old maid of six and twenty. None of the gentlemen would even bother to humor her; she was past the age of humoring, especially considering she had no dowry to see her well married should anyone wish to steal a kiss.
Isabella let out a heavy sigh, her green-plaid of her skirts pushed forward as she leaned against the frame of the door, her fingers tapping along the trim in irritation.
“What are you doing all by yourself?” came a dark, seductive voice at her shoulder.
Isabella started, and then turned with indignation at her intruder. How dare someone sneak up on her; at least that was her opinion until she saw who exactly the intruder was.
“Theo,” she threw her arms around her oldest friend, remembering herself too late that her reaction to his appearance was much more inappropriate than the privately placed mistletoe. ”I didn’t know you were coming home!”
“I thought I would surprise you. And I see I accomplished just that.”
His grin was devilish and had her blustering in response. Goodness, it wasn’t like her to react this way to him.
“Stop teasing me, Theo.”
“But your blushes are delightful.” He bumped his shoulder against hers as he perched next to her in the doorframe. “Mother is up to her usual antics, I’m afraid.”
“Oh,” she said, oddly deflated.
Theo’s mother had great aspirations for her only son to marry the current diamond of the season. Theo was a young man set to inherit a great fortune and title, so Isabella wasn’t sure why his mother had her heart set on adding an heiress to the family.
“Have you already been to see Miss Abernathy in the tea room?”
“Good heavens, no.” Theo brushed his hand through his unruly brown locks. “I’ve done everything imaginable to avoid a run-in with her.”
Isabella raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “Are you dashing your mother’s hopes for a marriage this season?”
“Absolutely—if it’s to that woman.”
“She’s not all that terrible once you get past that squawking noises she makes every time something excites her.”
Theo huffed out a breath of air in agreement. “Why are you hiding in the parlor?”
“For no other reason than to avoid my aunt. She’s ordered me about all day and I wanted a moment to myself.”
“To lament under the mistletoe?” he teased.
“Certainly not.” She stood away from him, offended. “Besides, I’m not actually under the mistletoe.”
“We could change that.”
Isabella made an unladylike noise in the back of her throat. “Because that would find me suddenly kissed for the first—” She pinched her lips shut.
“Has no one been so bold as to steal your breath away, Isabella?”
There was laughter in his voice that had her back stiffening. She ought to leave him here by himself to lament under the mistletoe.
“I haven’t seen you since the summer, and the first thing you manage to do is insult me.” She walked away from him, having enough of his antics.
He grasped her hand and whirled her around before she could make a perfect escape.
“I’m sorry, Isabella.”
“I don’t accept your apology. The more time you spend in London, the more you change from the boy I grew up with.”
“That boy grew into a man a long time ago, but I’m still the same person at heart. The only reason I came home was to see you, you foolish woman.” When she didn’t respond, he said simply, “Isabella . . .”
The pleading in his voice had regret for her anger flaring in her chest. It was Christmastide, and not a time for any sort of pettiness. She turned to face him, though she was still perturbed.
“Are you going to be nicer?”
“I promise I will be. Now, what would you think if I . . .”
He looked up.
So did she.
That damnable mistletoe was right above them.
She nibbled on her lower lip. “And should we be caught?”
“I’m more than willing to live with the consequences.”
She laughed. He was still teasing her, and though her friendship for him had developed into a tendre some years ago, she’d learned to ignore the fluttery feeling she felt whenever he was around. “And what would your mother think?”
“Let’s find out.”
His mouth lowered marginally closer to hers. She was too shocked to pull away, and too full of excitement that she was going to be kissed for the first time by the man she respected and loved above all that she tilted her head back in invitation.
She thought he’d brush his lips across hers, but when his arm came around her back to support her and he dipped her back so she was completely at his mercy, she let out a squeal of surprise.
This was no gentle brushing of lips. If two people could meld together so tightly they became one, then that was what happened as his breath literally stole hers. Their mouths met and parted. The touch of his tongue was a surprise against her lips, but she didn’t think to protest, instead she opened to him allowing him to wrap his tongue around hers.
At first the touch was awkward, and then her arms snaked around his shoulders to hold him closer and she closed her eyes as she surrendered to the feel of Theo wrapped around her.
In the distance she heard someone cough, but she was so caught up in Theo that she couldn’t bring herself to pull away from their embrace. It was Theo who pulled away first, looking down at her with those mischievous green eyes of his and a grin that melted her heart.
“We’re well and truly caught, Isabella.”
She whipped her head around, a gasp of shock coming from her throat as she tried to disengage from Theo. The whole house party seemed to be standing in the threshold of the parlor, agog from the sight she and Theo made. She couldn’t find the necessary words to apologize. She couldn’t find any words at all.
Theo steadied her on her feet and whispered in her ear, “I should have done that a long time ago, so we could be living with the consequences sooner.”
The rascal. He’d intended to do just that.
She wrapped her fingers through his when he gave her his hand.
There really was no better way to be caught under the mistletoe.
In the captivating first installment of the Dangerous Rogues series, a seductive earl encounters an old flame and passion burns brighter—and more dangerously—than ever before…
WHEN LOVE IS AT STAKE
Leo Harrow, Earl of Barrington, is a regular subject of the scandal rags. Once an unrepentant pleasure seeker, he knows that young ladies are warned to look the other way when he enters a room. But when he comes face to face with a woman from his past—the one that got away—he will do anything to keep the rumors about him at bay. Or risk losing her forever…
ALL BETS ARE OFF
Genevieve Camden is no stranger to Leo’s seductive ways. Years ago she was fooled into believing that he cared about her…and now that he’s back on the ballroom floor, he appears to be making amends. But this time Genny knows better: A scoundrel never changes his stripes—not even one as charming and handsome as Leo. Unless maybe he’s been in love with her all along…?
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