Sharing a First Kiss on Christmas Eve - Stefanie Sloane
A native Northwesterner with the pale skin to prove it, Stefanie Sloane credits her parents’ eclectic reading habits—not to mention their decision to live in the middle of nowhere—for her love of books. A childhood spent lost in the pages of countless novels led Stefanie to college where she majored in English. No one was more surprised than Stefanie when she actually put her degree to use and landed a job in Amazon.com’s Books editorial department. She spent over five years reading for a living before retiring to concentrate on her own stories. Stefanie currently resides with her family in Seattle.
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It just so happens that One Perfect Christmas, my story in the Naughty & Nice anthology, includes a first kiss on Christmas Eve. It also features a persnickety donkey named Reginald, a death-defying sledding incident, and copious amounts of snow. But let’s be honest: we’re all here for the Christmas Eve kiss! So without further ado, please welcome Jane Merriweather and Lucas Cavanaugh, who find themselves under the mistletoe in One Perfect Christmas.
One Perfect Christmas
by Stefanie Sloane
Jane could not remember a time when she’d not been present at Cavanaugh House for this most festive tradition. Cox, the butler, directed the younger, burly footmen as they held tight to the ropes that had been wrapped about the large felled log. Someone in the gathering offered up a joyous “huzzah!” and the others joined in for three more shouts as the log was carefully carried through the doorway and across to the expansive fireplace.
Jane stood back as the others followed the yule log, taking up a spot in exactly the middle of the threshold so that she might enjoy the cool, crisp smell of snow and pine that still mingled in the foyer down below.
She closed her eyes and breathed in the seasonal scent, memories of previous Christmases piling one upon the other in her brain until a mantle of sweet sentimentality made her smile.
“You’re reveling in Christmases past, aren’t you?”
Jane opened her eyes to find Lucas standing in front of her, his eyes fixed on hers. “How did you know?”
“Because you’d never ignore the opportunity for sentimentality, that’s why,” he answered, grinning down at her. “Speaking of which, you know which tree that is, don’t you?”
Jane playfully pushed Lucas away, needing space from his rightness, if that was even a word. And largeness.
And handsomeness. And him. “No. Tell me.”
Lucas nodded wistfully. “Old Tom.”
As children, Jane and Lucas had taken it upon themselves to name many of the trees that stood in the forest on Cavanaugh lands. Old Tom had been a particular favorite for his many strong branches and excellent cover from nosy nannies and overbearing parents.
“Oh,” Jane replied, a sadness even the delicious mixture of brisk December air and the scent of pine could not lessen.
“Matthew told me after the tree had been felled. Otherwise, I would have insisted they choose another,” Lucas explained. “I’m sorry, Jane. I truly am.”
“I know you are,” Jane replied, rather more softly than she’d intended. She tore her gaze from Lucas’s understanding eyes and looked for Lord Needles.
Lucas turned to take in the crowd. “Well, tell me then. Is he, as I’ve heard my mother say, ‘marriage material’?”
“Lord Needles, Jane,” Lucas explained. “That is who we are looking for, is it not?”
There it was, his rightness bothering Jane, yet again. “Well, yes.”
“Yes, we are looking for Lord Needles? Or yes, the man is marriage material?”
“Both,” Jane bit out, realizing as she did that she meant it. “Yes, both. Do you know, I quite like the man.”
From the corner of her eye, Jane saw Lucas turn to look at her as if he was about to say something. Then he turned his attention back to the crowd, finally uttering, “are you surprised?”
“Honestly? Yes,” Jane answered, facing Lucas. “You know as well as I the man was just as likely to be a pompous, pea-brained, rotten-toothed, doddering old fool. But he’s not. Not even close—in fact, he’s almost perfect.”
“Then I am exceedingly happy for you Jane,” Lucas said, though she could have sworn the kindness in his words did not meet in his eyes.
“Still, there is no point in tempting fate.” He pointed up toward the ceiling to where a mistletoe ball hung jauntily from a red satin ribbon. “A kiss is required, or else.”
Jane looked at him skeptically. “Or what?”
“Oh, grievous tidings for those who refuse,” Lucas answered, shaking his finger. “Grievous tidings, indeed.”
Jane considered his reponse. She certainly could not afford grievous tidings. Not now.
“And who, specifically, does the tradition originate from?” she pressed, desperate to avoid Lucas’s lips on hers.
Lucas thought for a moment. “The Picts, I feel sure. Or the Vikings. One or the other. You could tempt fate, I suppose…”
Flashes of painted men bursting through the wood and longboats filled with marauding savages filled Jane’s mind.
Could Lord Needles withstand a Viking attack?
“Perhaps a small peck.” She then closed her eyes and waited.
She felt his breath first, warm puffs of sweet air tantalizing her upper lip.
Impatience swept through her and she focused on marauding Vikings.
She squeezed her eyelids tight as his body brushed hers, the wool of his superfine coat rubbing against the bodice of her silk gown.
The friction heated her lungs and she bit back a rising squall of panic, her breathing becoming staccato beats of harried energy.
His finger slowly slid from the tip of her chin to just beneath and he tipped her head up, trailing along the edge of her jaw and landing on the hollow just beneath her earlobe. He hesitated, tortuously drawing a semi-circle on the heated skin, before removing his hand.
Jane swallowed hard.
The Picts were of Scottish descent, found mainly in eastern and northern Scotland. Or was it southern Scotland?
Her skin prickled with indescribable heat, fiery wisps of hedonistic flame licking at her limbs.
No, it was most definitely northern.
Jane reached out with one hand, a sudden dizziness beginning to spin in her belly. Her fingers landed upon Lucas’s chest and she pulled them back, a gasp escaping her lips.
The flames licked hungrily, devouring the skin between her breasts and legs.
Lucas touched his lips to hers. Firm, but exquisitely soft, his mouth molded against hers as if made for this very moment.
Was it the Norse who built funeral pyres for their dead?
Jane felt flushed. Warm. So, so warm.
He set a sultry pace, the many strong and skilled muscles in his face seemingly intent upon her destruction.
Jane wanted more. Her tongue teased the seam of her mouth to open. The apex between her thighs thrummed with need.
Lucas broke the kiss.
Jane’s eyes flew open and she frantically searched for something—anything—that would make sense.
“Happy Christmas, Jane,” Lucas murmured, offering Jane his arm when she lost her balance.
She clung to him as her mind sorted out where she was, her body responding to the sudden sense of desertion with small, imperceptible spasms in her heated muscles.
“And to you, Lucas,” Jane mumbled, amazed she was able to say anything at all.
After being jilted by her fiancé, Jane Merriweather turns to her dear childhood friend, the Honorable Lucas Cavanaugh, for support—and unlocks the smoldering desire simmering in the man’s troubled heart. Frightened by his newfound feelings, Lucas flees to Scotland. But when the Christmas season brings them together again, one glance is all that’s needed to reignite his yearning. If Lucas can convince Jane that his intentions are as pure as the falling snow, they’ll turn a dreary December into a joyous Yuletide affair.
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Who doesn’t love a scoundrel? The Scoundrel Takes a Bride, the fifth installment in the Regency Rogues series, coming to a bookstore near you on January 1, 2013!
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