A Drunken Serenade on Christmas Eve - Samantha Grace
Historical romance author Samantha Grace discovered the appeal of a great love story when she was just a young girl, thanks to Disney’s “Robin Hood”. She didn’t care that Robin Hood and Maid Marian were cartoon animals. It was her first happily-ever-after experience and she didn’t want the warm fuzzies to end. Now that Samantha is grown, she enjoys creating her own happy-endings for characters that spring from her imagination. Publisher’s Weekly describes her stories as “fresh and romantic” with subtle humor and charm. Samantha describes romance writing as the best job ever.
Part-time hospice social worker, moonlighting author, and Pilates nut, she enjoys a happy and hectic life with her real life hero and two kids in the Midwest.
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Fergus, Lady Helena Thorne’s loyal Scottish servant from IN BED WITH A ROGUE, has met his match in the surprisingly cheeky Edith Gallagher. Edith has accepted a position as Lady Thorne’s paid companion to keep watch over the lady’s youngest sister while the family stays in Scotland for the holidays. After many heated quarrels over what is in Gracie’s best interests, Fergus and Edith have called a temporary truce. They have agreed to put their differences aside for Christmas to insure it’s the best one Gracie has ever had. Fergus and Edith soon discover their passionate battles over the girl have been masking the truth: they are wildly attracted to one another, even though they cannot agree on what that means for their future.
A Drunken Christmas Serenade
Edith Gallagher chose a plush chair closest to the fire to escape the chaos of the McTaggart Christmas Eve festivities. The mug of chocolate Fergus McTaggart had handed her after she’d declined a glass of the more popular Prince Charlie’s Liqueur had grown lukewarm while she’d chatted with different members of the McTaggart clan. They were a welcoming group, much to her surprise. After her stormy relationship with Mr. McTaggart at the beginning of her stay in Scotland, she had fleetingly suspected his mother’s invitation to celebrate Christmas with the clan might be a ruse to ambush her, then send her back to London. She felt silly for doubting the old cook’s sincerity. Mrs. McTaggart had been lovely to her this evening, even preparing a mince pie to honor Edith’s English origins.
Everyone at Aldmist Fell was kind, including her employer. Edith hadn’t been raised to believe nobility could be anything other than greedy and insensitive, but Lord and Lady Thorne were the exception. The baron and baroness hadn’t hesitated when Mr. McTaggart requested the use of the great hall to accommodate his clan for Christmas, even though most of them were in service at the grand castle.
She found herself searching for the burly Scot and discovered him in the center of a group of clansmen awaiting a refill from the bottle in his hand. He towered over several of the men and caught her staring. He winked. “I havena forgotten ye, lass.”
Edith startled and looked away as heat flooded her face.
Mr. McTaggart’s laughter carried on the air.
She sighed. Already, his confidence bordered on arrogance without any encouragement from her. If she were wise, she would pretend she didn’t know him. Wise, she was not, however, and her gaze strayed back toward him. He was still watching her and his crooked grin widened before he turned to speak with an older man who’d approached him. His waistcoat stretched across his broad back when he leaned down to listen.
Lud! She had no restraint when it came to Fergus McTaggart, which was ironic since she’d been harping on him to be less impulsive and reckless almost from the moment they met.
She slowly inhaled to calm her racing pulse and savored the blend of quintessential holiday scents: spicy pine boughs, freshly baked breads, cinnamon, and ginger. Edith couldn’t imagine a more perfect setting for a celebration, or a more jovial crowd. Laughter and unfamiliar Gaelic echoed off the arched ceiling and swirled around her, but she didn’t need to speak the language to understand how much Mr. McTaggart’s family loved him or one another.
His sister dragged up a ladder-back chair and plopped down beside her. Her green eyes sparkled just like Mr. McTaggart’s when she was in high spirits. “We havena frightened you away, I see. Verra good.”
Edith returned the young woman’s smile. “Not one bit. I came from a large family. I was the youngest of ten, but they are all gone now.”
“Losh! I’m sorry about your kin.” Ismay put her arm around Edith’s shoulders and leaned her head against Edith’s. “You may no’ want us, but yer saddled with us now.”
“I would be a fool to turn down such a generous offer,” Edith said, hugging her in return.
“Fergus said he’ll be along in a moment.” Ismay ran an assessing gaze over Edith’s hair and dress before flashing a self-satisfied smile. “You look verra bonnie tonight. I believe it is my best work yet.”
The young woman served as Lady Thorne’s maid, and she had generously offered to assist Edith with her toilette for the party.
“Thank you.” Edith held her head high. She felt pretty in her borrowed dress. In addition, it was freeing to discard her spectacles and release her hair from its usual stringent knot.
Ismay grasped her hand and squeezed. “It was my pleasure, Mistress Gallagher. I enjoyed spending time with you, and I am pleased you are here tonight.”
Her new friend’s words were very kind. Edith had experienced many lonely Christmases in her life, and she would carry this memory with her forever.
Ismay’s mother held up a plain box tied with a red silk ribbon and waved to her daughter. “This one’s for ye, lass. C’mon. We’ll be here all nigh’ if we dinnae get started.”
Edith pasted on a smile as the family members huddled around the pile of gifts on the table. The happy spark inside her dimmed a little, despite her determination not to be bothered that she couldn’t participate in the gift exchange.
“Here’s one for Ian.” A girl no older than fifteen grabbed a package and thrust it toward a redheaded man across the table. Everyone else was doing the same, calling out names, grabbing gifts, and ripping into them. There were hearty slaps on backs, squeals of joy, and lots of good-natured teasing.
Tiny prickles at the backs of Edith’s eyes caused them to water. The McTaggarts’ warm acceptance of her was beyond anything she had ever experienced, but it was time to go. Setting her mug on a side table, Edith stood and slipped from the room without alerting anyone. She was halfway up the stairwell when heavy footsteps sounded in the foyer. She turned in time to find Mr. McTaggart reach the bottom of the stairs. His hands were clasped casually behind his back.
“Where are you going, lass? It is time to open gifts.” His eyes glimmered in the scant candlelight cast by the wall sconces.
Edith shrugged, her cheeks heating as she thought of the shirt she’d sewn for him. It was too intimate a gift for an unmarried woman to bestow on a bachelor. She didn’t know what she’d been thinking when she chose the pristine white linen on a trip to the village, but wisely, she had left the shirt in her chambers.
“I have no gifts to give, Mr. McTaggart. Besides, this is your family’s time to celebrate. I have a book in my chambers to keep me company.” She smiled gamely, hoping he did not detect the slight tremor of her chin. Being part of a large family again was her heart’s secret wish, but the McTaggarts were not her people and never would be.
“Dinnae move. I’m coming up.” He staggered over the first step, then stopped to aim a lopsided grin up at her. “Sly bastard, that one. Always trying to trip a man.”
He took more care with the next step, his footing steadier. Locking his smoldering green gaze on her, he climbed another. Her stomach quivered as he slowly closed the distance between them and stopped a step below her. They were face to face. His blazing eyes shouted for her to run, even as his tousled brown hair lent him an air of harmlessness. Fergus McTaggart was far from safe. When he was close, she was very much in danger of wanting something she couldn’t have—his heart.
He weaved toward her; his body heat called to her, but she gripped the railing behind her to hold her ground. “Have you no’ heard it is better to receive than ta give, lass?” The sweet smell of whisky on his breath teased her nose.
“For the love of St. Peter,” she grumbled. “You’ve been tossing back that royal liqueur all evening and now you don’t even know what you are saying. Off to bed with you before you take a tumble down the stairs.”
His large palm spanned her waist, his touch searing. “Any tumbling in my future willna be down the stairs, Eddi.”
She rested her hands on his chest, pretending his nearness didn’t send her heart into a rampage. “N-no one has ever called me Eddi. I’ll thank you to address me properly.”
“Aye, Mistress Gallagher.” He leaned toward her, his lips almost brushing hers. Her breath caught and her fingers curled into the fabric of his white shirt. Closing her eyes, she licked her lips in anticipation of his kiss, but his mouth only hovered above hers. “You dinnae have to go,” he murmured.
She blinked, confused that he was capable of speaking when all she could focus on was the fullness of his mouth. “That—” She cleared her throat. “That is very kind, but Christmas is a family affair, and I am not family.”
He drew back with a slight frown. “I mean you dinnae have to go back to London, lass. You could stay here.”
She suppressed an unladylike growl. If he didn’t kiss her, she was going to scream. “And do what?”
“Become my wife, of course. We’ll have a few wee bairns and grow old together.”
“You are mad.” At thirty, she was well beyond her prime, and the blasted Scot knew it. He wanted sons and daughters she couldn’t promise him. This time she listened to her good sense and pushed against his solid chest to hold him at arm’s length. “Have children, indeed.”
His thick brows dropped low over his eyes. “You seem ta like children well enough, so it must be me you cannot tolerate.”
“It’s your teasing I cannot tolerate. Now go back to your family. It is Christmas, for pity’s sake.”
The muscles in his jaw shifted and his eyes narrowed. “Not until you receive your Christmas present.” He covered her hand, trapping it against his chest when she tried to walk away. Before she could ask what he was doing, he broke into song. “Ae fon’ keess, and then we seva! Ae fareweell, and then foreva!”
“You are foxed, aren’t you? I knew it. All this—” She jerked her hand free and waved it in the air for emphasis. “The song, the ridiculous offer of marriage. You are three sheets to the wind.”
“I am not! What makes you think I’m foxed?”
“Because I couldn’t understand a word you sang.”
He tossed his head back on a hearty laugh. “Dinnae blame me, lass. It’s Robbie Burns what deserves yer ire. I dinnae compose Ae Fond Kiss.”
“Ae? What is ae? Is that even a word?”
“It means one. One fond kiss, Eddi.” He retrieved a twig of mistletoe from behind his back and wagged it overhead. “But I dinnae want to say farewell after one kiss. I’ll want another and another and another. Every day for the rest of our lives.”
Before Edith could tell him what to do with his drunken proposal and Christmas serenade, he tugged her into his arms and covered her lips with his.
He’s the Talk of the Town
The whole town is tittering about Baron Sebastian Thorne having been jilted at the altar. Every move he makes ends up in the gossip columns. Tired of being the butt of everyone’s jokes, Sebastian vows to restore his family’s reputation no matter what it takes.
She’s the Toast of the Ton
Feted by the crème of society, the beautiful widow Lady Prestwick is a vision of all that is proper. But Helena is no angel, and when Sebastian uncovers her dark secret, he’s quick to press his advantage. In order to keep her hard-won good name, Helen will have to make a deal with the devil. But she’s got some tricks up her sleeves to keep this notorious rogue on his toes…
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