Learning a Secret on Christmas Eve - Sherry Thomas
USA Today-bestselling author Sherry Thomas is one of the most acclaimed romance authors working today—one of the first to be reviewed by the New York Times Book Review. Her books regularly receive starred reviews from trade publications and are frequently found on best-of-the-year lists. She is also a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA® Award.
English is Sherry's second language—she has come a long way from the days when she made her laborious way through Rosemary Roger's Sweet Savage Love with an English-Chinese dictionary. She enjoys digging down to the emotional core of stories. And when she is not writing, she thinks about the zen and zaniness of her profession, plays computer games with her sons, and reads as many fabulous books as she can find.
Sherry also writes young adult fantasy. The Immortal Heights, volume three of the Elemental Trilogy, releases fall 2015.
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For the Historical Xmas event in 2012, I wrote a little scene set on a wintry terrace, a man and a woman having a chat on Christmas Eve. At the time I thought the scene was going to be an one-off. But sometimes a story proves deeper and more interesting than even its creator imagined. So in 2013 I added to the scene and this year I expand it yet again.
Please read Part 1 and Part 2 first.
Georgina still had her own room at her mother’s house: Lady Wintersea kept the room exactly as it had been, on the day Georgina departed to marry Elliot. And Georgina had left a few of Elliot’s love letters behind, so that every time she visited, she would have the pleasure of coming across them again.
Among the letters was one from the Christmas when both she and Elliot had been invited to Lord Wrenworth’s famously extravagant winter party.
My dear Miss Dutton,
I know I volunteered to write and tell you what you have missed by leaving Huntington early to go to your mother’s for her birthday. Alas, I overestimated my ability to pay attention to my surroundings when they no longer include you. I try to notice what is going on, but in my mind’s eye I keep seeing you as you waved goodbye, smiling, the blue ribbon on your hat fluttering in the wind.
Or as you were last night, playing with the plumes of your fan, delighting in their airy softness.
No doubt you have heard plenty from gentlemen on the loveliness of your eyes and the attractiveness of your gait. Rest assured that I agree with them completely—you are exquisite to behold. But what makes my heart stutter is not your beauty, but the joy you radiate.
The pleasures you take in the simple things in life—a well-buttered muffin at breakfast, the sight of the winter’s first fall of snow, the gusto with which Lord Vere sings, even though he had yet to meet a song he couldn’t butcher—I cannot help but be lighter and happier when you are nearby.
Bt I digress. I promised you news, did I not? There was a tremendous snowball fight in the afternoon—and our side was so thoroughly defeated we felt like Napoleon in Russia. Tea turned into quite the spirited game of charades. And dinner, well, dinner has not taken place yet, but I cannot wait any longer to put pen to paper.
I imagine Lady Wintersea’s joy at seeing you. I imagine the delight you feel in your own home. Perhaps I am being naïve, but when I think of you, my heart floats on how beautiful the world must seem to you.
Your faithful servant
How had it worked? Did Beresford come up with a suitable draft and then have Elliot copy the words in his own handwriting? Or did Beresford dictate, to the sound of Elliot’s pen scratching across the paper? And did Elliot have any input, beyond asking his friend to make sure that she understood he loved her?
Georgina had understood it very well—had felt it in her marrows—because of these words: they were love given shape and set down to last. And she had wished for more of such letters from Elliot, the way she wished more photographs had been taken of him in life, because they served as a more tangible record than her memories.
But Elliot had not written this letter, or any of the other love letter she’d received from him. Then what was she looking at?
What was this a record of?
Hidden beneath Catherine Blade’s uncommon beauty is a daring that matches any man’s. Although this has taken her far in the world, she still doesn’t have the one thing she craves: the freedom to live life as she chooses. Finally given the chance to earn her independence, who should be standing in her way but the only man she’s ever loved, the only person to ever betray her.
Despite the scars Catherine left him, Captain Leighton Atwood has never been able to forget the mysterious girl who once so thoroughly captivated him. When she unexpectedly reappears in his life, he refuses to get close to her. But he cannot deny the yearning she reignites in his heart.
Their reunion, however, plunges them into a web of espionage, treachery, and deadly foes. With everything at stake, Leighton and Catherine are forced to work together to find a way out. If they are ever to find safety and happiness, they must first forgive and learn to trust each other again…
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