Shana Galen is the bestselling author of passionate Regency romps, including the RT Reviewers' Choice The Making of a Gentleman. Kirkus says of her books, "The road to happily-ever-after is intense, conflicted, suspenseful and fun," and RT Bookreviews calls her books “lighthearted yet poignant, humorous yet touching." She taught English at the middle and high school level off and on for eleven years. Most of those years were spent working in Houston's inner city. Now she writes full time. She's happily married and has a daughter who is most definitely a romance heroine in the making.
For me, Christmas has always been about hope—the hope a newborn baby brought to the world in Bethlehem, our hopes for a new year, the kids’ hopes for the perfect gift under the tree. In this short scene, I write about a woman with grief in her past and the new hope one man brings into her life. I hope Danielle invites me back so I can finish the story next year!
Hope for Christmas
Everyone agreed the house party was an unmitigated disaster. The weather had been rainy but not cold enough to snow. All of the outdoor events—the ice skating, the sledding, and the gathering of greenery for the coming Christmas holiday—had been cancelled due to inclement weather. No one wanted to traipse about in puddles of slushy mud.
And so when it began to snow the night before the party was to end and the guests were to depart for their family estates to celebrate Christmas with loved ones, most of the guests eyed the steadily falling white flakes with narrowed eyes. When the worst was confirmed, and the morning revealed huge snow drifts and more snow still falling, no one was pleased to be snowed in.
No one but Anabelle.
She had no one to go home to. She was to spend Christmas with her sister and her sister’s family, as she had the last three years, but the experience had proved more depressing than joyous. Jane and her husband were so happy. They had such beautiful children. They had a lovely home.
They had everything Anabelle had wanted. For a little while she had thought she had it. She’d married, and she’d been happy. But then James had died, and she’d watched all her dreams slip through her fingers.
She hadn’t planned to come to the house party. Even if Lady Dorsey was one of her good friends from childhood, Anabelle had little interest in parlor games or freezing her cheeks and toes to skate in circles round a frozen lake.
But then Eva—Lady Dorsey—had casually remarked that Lord Redmond would be in attendance, and Anabelle hadn’t been able to decline. Now that she stood in the morning room, peering out the window at the blur of white obscuring objects even a few feet away, Anabelle considered that Eva had known what she was about when she’d mentioned Lord Redmond. Eva knew Anabelle blushed whenever Redmond was about and became tongue-tied when he spoke to her. He’d been her brother’s friend at school, and he’d often come home with Edward when her brother had been on school breaks. But Colin Parrish, the Viscount Redmond, had never paid the slightest bit of attention to shy, quiet Anabelle.
He’d been much more interested in horses. His family was known to breed and train the very best horses in England. Clearly Redmond’s father and grandfather had passed the interest on to the new heir. Her brother Edward had been similarly infatuated with horses, and the two boys spent more time in the stable and paddock than in her parents’ house. Anabelle hadn’t minded. She had a clear view of both locations from her bedroom window.
And she’d been watching Colin from a distance ever since. She’d forgotten about the viscount briefly, when she’d fallen in love with and married James. But after her husband’s death and her year of mourning, she went out in public once again and there she saw Viscount Redmond at practically every turn.
He’d been an attractive boy with wavy hair that was neither brown nor blond but somewhere in-between and with the best shades of both running through it. His brown eyes were always warm, as though someone had stirred gold into the brown to make it softer. His face had been rounder when he was younger. It had thinned out now, the cheekbones and jaw looking almost as though a sculptor had come in and carved away the baby flesh to reveal the sleek bone structure beneath. And though she knew he was not particularly tall, he carried himself in a way that made him seem to tower over other men. His back was straight, his shoulder broad, his thighs perfectly shaped in his tight breeches.
And so when it appeared that the house party would continue at least one more night and perhaps two, leaving the guests stranded here on Christmas Eve, Anabelle didn’t really mind. She pretended to mind, but there were worse things than spending the holiday with her oldest friend and the dashing Lord Redmond.
She heard the door to the morning room open and turned with an apology on her lips. She expected to see Eva, coming to scold her for sneaking out of charades in the drawing room. Instead she stared into the handsome face of Colin, Viscount Redmond.
He looked as surprised to see her as she was to see him. His eyes widened, and his brows rose. “Miss Farthing.” He gave a quick bow, recovering his composure.
“Lord Redmond,” Anabelle said, her voice little more than a whisper. She should leave. If he had come to the morning room, he wanted solitude. She should leave him to his peace and quiet. “I was just leaving,” she said, aware her cheeks must be flaming red. Her face felt as though she was just inches from a roaring fire.
“You needn’t leave on my account,” he said, moving into the room and closing the door behind him. “In fact, I had been looking for the chance to speak with you.”
Anabelle’s breath caught and she stared at him in disbelief. “Y-you wanted to speak with me?”
He smiled easily. “Is that so strange? I’ve always thought of you like a sister. How is Edward? I haven’t seen him for some time.”
“Edward?” She understood the question, but she couldn’t quite move past the fact that Viscount Redmond thought of her as a sister. On the one hand, she was grateful he’d noticed her at all. On the other, her feelings toward him were anything but sisterly.
“Yes, your brother?” Redmond said when she didn’t respond to his question. “How is he?”
“Fine,” she finally managed.
Redmond’s eyes narrowed. “Have I caught you at a bad time? I should excuse myself.”
“No!” She couldn’t let him leave. This was her chance to…to…she did not know what this was her chance to do, but she did know she wanted Colin Parrish to keep talking to her. “I mean, I am quite well, thank you. And so is Edward. He has taken over the management of my late parents’ estate. It keeps him well occupied.”
“And you? How are you? I was sorry to hear of your husband’s passing.”
Once again, Anabelle was surprised. He knew she’d been married? “Thank you.”
Redmond ran a hand through his hair and crossed to the window. Anabelle moved aside so he could see the storm outside. “When you arrived I didn’t expect you to be alone,” he said, his eyes on the swirling snow.
“I had my maid,” Anabelle said.
He smiled and then looked at her. “I meant, I thought you would have married again by now.”
Anabelle was struck speechless both by the words and by the handsomeness of his features. “Why?” she finally managed, though if she had not been so awed, she would never have been so forward.
“A pretty girl like you,” Redmond said. “What man wouldn’t want you?”
Anabelle did not know what she would have said next, and she never had the chance to say it because just then the door opened, and Eva did enter. “Anabelle, I have been looking everywhere. I—” She stopped when she spotted Redmond. “My lord. I do apologize. I did not mean to interrupt.”
Redmond bowed. “You are never an interruption, my lady. If you’ll excuse me, I believe the men are gathering in the billiard’s room.”
Anabelle and Eva curtseyed and did not speak until Redmond had closed the door and his footsteps faded.
Then Eva grasped Anabelle’s hands and squealed. “Tell me everything.”
“There’s nothing to tell. He asked after my brother.”
Anabelle felt her face heating again.
Eva smiled. “Tell me.”
“He said I was pretty. He said any man would want me for a wife.”
Eva squeezed her hands tightly. “I just knew this snow would redeem the party! What will you do now?”
Anabelle shook her head. “I don’t know. What should I do?”
Eva bent and looked into Eva’s eyes. “Make him love you.”
“You can. Anything is possible. It’s Christmastime.”
Anabelle smiled. For the first time in a very, very long time, she believed anything really was possible. And she would win Colin’s heart.
To be continued next year!
Waiting for a Duke Like YouThere's no such thing as the perfect hero ...Nathan Cauley, Duke of Wyndover, is so handsome ladies swoon—but Nathan doesn't want a fawning miss for his duchess. Then he stumbles upon a filthy young woman sleeping under a bridge, and his protective instincts are raised. When he recognizes her as the woman he loved years before, he's determined to win back her heart.Or is there?Princess Vivienne is the last of the royal family of Glynaven. Vivienne is all alone and on the run when the Duke of Wyndover comes to her rescue. Vivienne barely remembers meeting him years before, and wonders if he is any more than a pretty face. But when the assassins return, Nathan might just prove to be the man Vivienne's been waiting for.A Prince in Her StockingWhen it's cold outside ...Prince Lucien of Glynaven spends the cold winter days in a small bookshop, searching for a book that's the key to saving his life. When Lady Cassandra Ashbrooke comes in to shop, her lovely face is almost enough to make him give up his search. But when assassins track him, he must end the budding romance and abandon his last chance at ever reclaiming his identity.A prince is just the man to make Christmas a little more cozy.When the widowed Lady Cassandra catches a glimpse of an attractive man in her favorite bookshop, she decides to meet him, hoping to add a small spark of excitement into her dull life. Soon the prince's kisses are more passionate than Cass can imagine. But with danger closing in on all sides, is it too late for a holiday miracle?These novellas were previously published in the anthologies Dancing in the Duke's Arms and Christmas in Duke Street.
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