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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Historical Christmas Event with Cheryl Holt


CHERYL HOLT is a New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon “Top 100” bestselling author who has published over fifty novels.

She’s also a lawyer and mom, and at age forty, with two babies at home, she started a new career as a commercial fiction writer. She’d hoped to be a suspense novelist, but couldn’t sell any of her manuscripts, so she ended up taking a detour into romance where she was stunned to discover that she has a knack for writing some of the world’s greatest love stories.

Her books have been released to wide acclaim, and she has won or been nominated for many national awards. She is considered to be one of the masters of the romance genre. For many years, she was hailed as “The Queen of Erotic Romance”, and she’s also revered as “The International Queen of Villains.” She is particularly proud to have been named “Best Storyteller of the Year” by the trade magazine Romantic Times BOOK Reviews.

She lives and writes in Hollywood, California, and she loves to hear from fans. Visit her website at www.cherylholt.com.

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Hi everyone! Thank you so much for taking a few minutes to read my latest Christmas short story. And thank you to Danielle for inviting me to participate again this year. I love bringing characters together from past novels and combining them in a new way. And I’ve always enjoyed the holiday theme of, “First Kiss on Christmas Eve,” so I decided to use it again.

The two characters I’ve chosen—Bobby Prescott and Laura Hastings—appeared last summer in my Jilted Brides trilogy. In the novels, they’re kids. Bobby is 12 and Laura is 10. Bobby is a gorgeous and charming bastard son of an earl. Every girl who meets him hopes she’ll get to marry him someday. Laura is a pretty, lonely orphan who had an awful and unusual childhood, but in Book 3 of the trilogy, she lands herself in a safe, happy spot.

For this Christmas tale, I’ve aged them a few years, so Bobby is 18 and Laura is 16. He’s grown from being a charming, irresistible boy to being a charming, irresistible young man. She’s always secretly been sweet on him, but too embarrassed to confess any affection. When they cross paths on Christmas Eve, Bobby is headed off to join the army. He looks very dashing in his red army coat. How could any girl resist him? Not Laura, that’s for sure!


ANOTHER ‘FIRST KISS’ ON CHRISTMAS EVE

Denby Manor, rural England, winter, 1821…

Laura stood in the doorway of the stables her brother, James, had built after he’d retired from the army. He’d been a cavalry officer and renowned horse trainer, and once he’d returned home, he’d started a business training horses again—but for civilians who were lucky enough to purchase them. She worked by his side as his trusted assistant, and because he let her share his love of horses, he was her favorite person in the whole world.

Behind her the large, beautiful animals shifted and snorted, stomping their feet and saying hello. It was late and quiet, and she shouldn’t have bothered them, but when she was feeling low, it was the only spot she found any contentment.

Off in the distance, she could hear faint traces of the Christmas Eve revelers, and she could see the grand house. The chandeliers were all lit so the windows glowed, and the golden color cast a cheery, festive shine out in the park. Not that it had much of an effect on her. Not that the pleasant ambiance could lure her back to participate.

She was never comfortable in huge groups of people. Although she was now sixteen, she hadn’t moved beyond many of the burdens placed on her shoulders when she was a child. Through desperate circumstances when she was little, she’d learned to be wary of men, to be wary of strangers, and she’d never completely lost that caution.

She didn’t like to be around adults who were loud, raucous, and drinking hard spirits, but her continued aversion made no sense. These days, she was safe and living in a stable home. She never had to worry about having warm clothes to wear or food to eat. There were no monsters under her bed, so it was silly to be vexed by so much jollity.

But she couldn’t help it. She wasn’t like other girls and didn’t have the steady history they took for granted. As an orphan raised by her sister Brinley—who’d been deranged and had probably belonged in an asylum—she’d walked a very rocky road. That terrible period had ended when she was ten, but despite how things had improved, she never felt she’d traveled very far from that horrid beginning.

Though she’d resided with James and his wife, Amelia, for six wonderful years, she still constantly peeked over her shoulder to see if danger was approaching. She lurked in corners, listened and watched and noted her surroundings. Difficult experience had drilled into her the need to be vigilant.

She heard someone coming, and she flitted into the shadows, not keen to explain why she’d sneaked off. James would have understood, but Amelia would have been disheartened to discover Laura had vanished.

Amelia had given Laura a home when she’d been abandoned by her sister and had had nowhere to go, and she would be eternally grateful for Amelia’s many kindnesses. She would never deliberately upset the dear woman, and hiding in the barn—during the annual Christmas party—seemed like a sure way to disappoint.

To her dismay, it was Bobby strolling toward her. As she could have predicted, he had a tart on his arm. With his blond hair and blue eyes, his tall height and confident demeanor, no female could resist him. Recently, he’d joined the army, and he was wearing his uniform for the first time, so he looked especially dashing in his red coat and white trousers.

She’d met him when she was ten and he was twelve, and since then, she’d socialized with him on eleven unforgettable occasions. Their families lived in different parts of the kingdom, so visits were rare. But she vividly remembered their every thrilling encounter, and she could recite every single word he’d ever uttered in her presence.

She’d met his sisters before she’d met him, and they’d bragged about how handsome he was, how every girl who saw him fell in love with him. Back then, she’d been too polite to question their assertions, but it was humiliating to admit she was just like all the other ninnies in his gaggle of admirers.

He was simply the most gorgeous, exciting boy ever, and she’d been caught in his web. He exuded a flair and poise that made her eager to linger by his side, hoping he might speak directly to her so she’d have an excuse to reply.

If anyone had asked her opinion—and people never did—she’d have insisted boys were stupid and dull, but not Bobby. He was funny and curious and considerate and interesting, like a shining star, like a comet streaking across the sky.

He’d been the real reason she’d left the party. Six months prior, his family had stopped at Denby, when they hadn’t popped in for almost a year, and Laura had been all grown up. He’d definitely noticed and had no longer treated her as a sort of pesky little sister.

They’d loafed in the garden for hours, had ridden horses for miles while they’d chatted about everything and nothing. When he’d departed, she’d been devastated. And because he was a boy, it would never have occurred to him to write her a letter after he was home. She couldn’t have written to him either, not without him providing some encouragement for correspondence.

He’d arrived at Denby earlier that day, and with his having enlisted in the army, he was the center of attention. Everyone was incessantly congratulating him, the women gushing over his uniform, the men offering advice about how his service would go and telling stories about their own military escapades.

Other than a quick, tepid hello, he’d scarcely looked at her, and she’d been crushed. She’d thought they’d start up again where they’d been previously, but the entire afternoon and evening, he’d been mobbed, and she hadn’t been able to get within ten feet of him. When she’d realized she was mooning over him like a lost puppy, she’d come outside to be with the horses.

As he neared, his companion became visible. She was a tenant farmer’s daughter, Miranda, who was pretty and voluptuous and no better than she had to be. If he sought a trollop to sneak off with him, she was the perfect candidate and exactly the type he would prefer: flirtatious, fawning, flattering.

She was acting in a brazen manner Laura could never have managed, cooing and clutching his arm, snuggling herself to his side.

Laura, herself, was fetching enough—with her white-blond hair and big blue eyes—but she was petite and thin as a rail, and she never flattered or fawned over boy or man. In her short life, she’d seen males of the species engage in too many disgusting behaviors, and she had no patience for nonsense.

A surge of emotion raced through her, and as she struggled to identity it, she was stunned to recognize it was jealousy. Of course she was jealous! She’d spent months obsessing over him, but in reality, they had only a casual acquaintance, and she had to tamp down her wild imagination.

She waited until they were very close, then she stepped from the shadows to block their way. They’d obviously assumed the building would be empty and were probably planning to share some torrid kisses in a dark stall, but the stables were Laura’s domain, and she didn’t have to let them.

At her sudden appearance, Miranda jumped with fright. Bobby simply stared at Laura and raised a brow.

“Did you need something?” Laura snootily asked, her irked gaze locked on Bobby as she rudely ignored his winsome friend.

“We were just taking a walk,” Bobby said. “There are too many guests in the manor and too many fires burning. It was hot and stuffy.”

“We needed some fresh air,” Miranda explained, her voice breathless and irritating.

“You can’t stroll about in here,” Laura told them. “It’s late, and it disturbs the horses, so it’s not allowed.”

Miranda glared haughtily, as if she’d counter Laura’s edict, but she didn’t dare. Laura’s brother, James, was Lord Denby, and where the horses were concerned, Laura had substantial authority.

Bobby grinned, looking magnificent and imperious, like a prince rather than an earl’s bastard son. “Your wish is our command, Miss Hastings. I guess we’ll have to walk elsewhere.”

He spun and guided his partner out into the drive, and Laura was left alone to fuss and fume. She wondered where they’d go next, and she supposed it wouldn’t be hard to find another trysting spot. The estate was large, and there were plenty of secluded corners where lovers could hide.

She whipped away and went to the rear door that led out to the corral. She stared up at the sky, but it was cloudy, as if it might snow, so she couldn’t see the stars. A gust of wind slithered by, and she shivered. She’d crept out of the manor without a cloak or bonnet, so she wouldn’t be able to tarry for long. It was too cold.

After a bit, she heard footsteps in the barn, and without glancing back, she knew it was Bobby. She cocked her head and listened more carefully. He was by himself, his darling Miranda having vanished.

Had they quarreled? She hoped they had.

He approached until he was standing right beside her, and for a moment, she shut her eyes and inhaled his delicious scent. It made her want to rub herself against him like a contented cat. She was aware of how scent drew animals together for mating, and she thought—if the same base attraction applied to humans—she and Bobby would have been bound forever by the Fates.

“Where is your…friend?” she asked, not bothering to peek over at him.

“I sent her back to the party.”

“Why didn’t you go with her?”

“She bored me.”

“You didn’t seem bored.”

“How could you tell? Were you watching me that intently?”

Laura scoffed with derision. “As if I’d waste time drooling over you like every other girl. Don’t you ever get tired of all that fawning?”

“No, never.”

She tsked with aggravation, and he slid away from her and leaned on the doorframe, his long, lanky body stretched out, his booted ankles crossed. She kept staring at the sky, valiantly working to ignore him, which was impossible.

“Are you angry with me?” he asked as she turned toward him.

“Why would I be angry?”

“Ooh, I don’t know,” he mused. “Though you like to pretend you’re not, you’re very spoiled.”

Her temper sparked. “Me? Spoiled?”

“Maybe you’re thinking—during my current visit—I haven’t showered you with enough attention.”

“You’re the vainest person I’ve ever met.”

“I’m sure that’s true. I can’t deny it.” He gestured to his new clothes. “Wouldn’t you like to mention how marvelous I look in my uniform?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’ve been deluged with so many compliments today that I’m surprised your head can fit through a door.”

He smirked, then blew out a heavy breath, growing somber and serious. “Do you suppose I’ll like being in the army?”

“Why wouldn’t you?”

“It’s all about following orders and obeying my superiors. I’ve never liked that sort of groveling.”

“Yes, but Lord John bought you a commission”—Lord John was his adoptive father—“so you’ll be an officer. You will be barking the orders to your lowly subordinates.”

“What if I’m not any good at it?”

She scowled. “Of course you’ll be good at it, and you know it too. Quit being such a nuisance.”

He grinned. “Will you miss me?”

She could have lied, could have acted as if she didn’t care that he was leaving, but she couldn’t. What if he was killed while he was away? What if he never came back to Denby?

“Yes,” she forced herself to admit, “I’ll miss you.”

He preened and chuckled. “I was certain you would.”

“Honestly! You’re being so annoying tonight.”

“Just tonight?”

“Well, you’re always annoying, but tonight, you’re being particularly horrid.”

He pushed away from the doorframe, and he eased over so they were toe to toe and facing each other. She stared up at him, cataloguing his handsome features so she’d never forget.

“I was hoping,” he said, “that we’d have more of an opportunity to chat today.”

“It didn’t seem that way to me,” she churlishly complained. “To me, it appeared you were too busy basking in the glow of all your admirers.”

“It was fun too. I enjoyed every second of it.”

She sighed. She was being a shrew, and he was being an ass, and there was so little time remaining for them. He was departing in the morning, heading for London after Christmas breakfast was served, and she’d only seized this tiny slice of minutes to be alone with him. Would she spend it bickering?

“Why did you bring Miranda out here?” The words spilled out before she could swallow them down. “Why her?”

“I wanted to go outside with you, but I couldn’t find you anywhere. I let her glom onto me instead.”

“You liar,” she scolded. “You weren’t looking for me.”

“Yes, I was.”

Another gust of wind blew by. She shivered, and he noticed.

“You’re freezing, aren’t you?” he said. “You silly goose! You came out without a cloak.”

“I didn’t stop to worry about the temperature. I simply needed to get away from all the merriment.”

“Yes, merriment can be so, so exhausting.”

During his prior visit, she’d confided many of her worst secrets, so he’d learned about her past and how difficult it was for her to socialize. It hurt to have him chiding her.

“It’s just…hard for me sometimes,” she said. “Please don’t tease me.”

His shoulders lumped. “I didn’t mean to. It’s just that I frequently think you’re ridiculous, and I like to remind you that you are.”

Before she realized what he intended, he shrugged out of his red coat and wrapped it around her. She pulled it tight, reveling in the feel of his body’s warmth encircling her own, relishing his special scent that was imprinted in the fabric.

“Better?” he asked.

“Much better, but now, you’ll freeze rather than me.”

“I’m an officer in the King’s army,” he facetiously boasted. “I can survive a dose of chilly weather.”

He stepped in and stunned her by draping an arm over her shoulders—as if they were devoted sweethearts. She snuggled herself to his side, and she fit perfectly, as if she’d been created to tarry in that spot and no other place in the world.

They dawdled, and she was curious as to what was vexing him, but she didn’t inquire. She was always content to be quiet, and obviously, he was fretting over the future. She wouldn’t butt in where she likely wasn’t wanted. It would break the magic spell of the moment where he might declare himself ready to return to the party.

“I’m afraid,” he confessed after awhile. “What if I’m awful at being a soldier? What if I shame myself in battle? What if I disappoint my men or disgrace myself in front of them?”

“You won’t,” she firmly, loyally stated.

“What if I’m killed? Or what if I lose a leg or an eye?”

“None of those things will happen to you. You’re too tough and too lucky.”

“Will you write to me while I’m away?” he asked.

“Yes, I’ll write every day if you’d like.”

“Well, I am worth a daily letter, but if you could manage it once a week or so, I’d be grateful.”

“I will do that, Bobby. Once a week. I promise.”

“It would make me happy.”

“But you have to write back occasionally.”

“I will,” he said, and she told herself he was sincere.

She peered up at him, wondering if she might die from gladness. Was that possible? Could a person perish from pleasure?

“You’re so pretty,” he said. “In this dim light, your blond hair looks silver. You could be a ghost or a fairy.”

“I’ll pick a fairy.”

Then, stunning her again, he reached out and laid his fingers on her cheeks. Without giving her a warning, he leaned down and kissed her. His lips brushed her own, with just the slightest pressure. He tasted like brandy and chocolate, and the heady aromas left her feeling as if she were floating on air.

Her eyelids fluttered down, their mouths linked, and the embrace continued for an eternity. He didn’t do anything else, didn’t pull her close or run his hands over her torso. He simply kissed her, then kissed her some more, his perfect lips touching hers in a perfect way.

It was her very first kiss—and on Christmas Eve too! Bestowed by Bobby Prescott, the man who—throughout her life—would always remain her one great love. But it was a secret she’d never share with anyone.

Finally, he drew away, and he smiled down at her, saying, “I’ve been wanting to do that ever since I arrived earlier this afternoon.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really.”

“I didn’t think you noticed I was alive.”

“Believe me, Laura, I noticed.”

“Will you kiss me again before you leave in the morning?”

“I’m planning on it.”

He nestled her to his side again, and she wished they never had to go in, that the miraculous night would never end. But he was shivering now, and she’d stolen his coat. She was in no hurry to give it back either.

“Oh, look!” he suddenly said. “It’s snowing! It’s snowing on Christmas Eve.”

Laura glanced up, and huge, fat flakes were falling everywhere, drifting down, landing on the corral fence and the dirt of the yard.

She held out her palm and caught some of them. He did too, then he pressed their hands together as if they were sealing a pact, or sealing a deal, or sealing a vow.

“Friends forever?” he asked.

“Yes, friends forever,” she replied.

“And maybe some day in the future, we could be a bit more than that.”

“Maybe,” she murmured. “Maybe quite a bit more.”




Josephine Bates only ever wanted to marry and have a home of her own. At age eighteen, when a handsome suitor swept her off her feet, she believed all her dreams were about to come true. But he was actually a cad who stole her dowry and jilted her at the altar. Since then, she's been wary of men and their motives. She's accepted the notion that she'll never escape her dreary, quiet existence, and she'll most likely live out her days as a spinster…

Peyton Prescott is a ship's captain in the Royal Navy. He's a man of action and adventure, and his years have been filled with danger and excitement. But his brother has died, so he's inherited a title and earldom he never sought or wanted. He's afraid his new position will force him to abandon the thrilling life he loves, and he's loafing in England, feeling landlocked and desperate to return to the sea. He'd give anything for a diversion, and when pretty, lonely Josephine crosses his path, he's fascinated and can't resist…

But Peyton isn't looking for a bride, and Josephine could never be interested in a handsome, dashing scoundrel. Yet as friendship blossoms and passion flares, can love be far behind?

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  • 1  Signed copies of Jilted by a Cad and Forever Yours

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25 comments :

  1. Great little story! I just love Cheryl's books! Thanks!

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  2. Lovely! Thanks for this!
    Kate Sparks csparks52@live.com

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  3. Cheryl, your novels never disappoint!

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  4. I love Cheryl's books. Thank you for the chance to win.

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  5. Hi everyone! Thanks for taking a minute to read my story. It was so much fun to write. Thanks also for posting your lovely comments. Writing is a very lonely, isolating business, so it's always delightful to hear kind words. And thanks to Danielle for inviting me to participate again this year. I hope all of you have had a chance to read my Jilted Brides trilogy. The kids, Bobby and Laura, featured in this short story play a huge role in the three novels. The whole trilogy is lovely (but then I'm prejudiced! I thought the books turned out great.) If you haven't read the trilogy, they'd be a fun way to spend the Christmas holidays, tucked in and snuggled by the fire, and cheering for my heroines as they best the cad who jilted them. Merry Christmas everybody! Thanks again for reading my story and thanks for your continued interest in me and my books. I'm always grateful!

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    1. Excited to read these, they sound wonderful! Happy Holidays!

      Cheers~
      Kelly Braun

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  6. Thank you so much for the chance to win this Giveaway. This us so generous.

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  7. Thank you for the chance to win this Giveaway!!

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  8. Hi Cheryl!!I have so many of your older books in paperback and love them! Enjoyed the story about and hope to read your Brides trilogy soon. Thank you so much and Happy Holidays!!

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  9. Hi again everyone. I wrote my Jilted Brides trilogy last year, and I picked that theme because I've always been fascinated by the notion of a man simply not showing up at the altar. I thought it would give me all sorts of interesting characters, along with plenty of delicious plot twists and turns. For several years now, I've been writing series books, where I have a continuing theme that runs through the whole trilogy. In Jilted Brides, it's a very wicked villain, and all of you know how much fun I have with villains! Merry Christmas everyone. I hope you're loving all the stories that have been posted so far. More are coming from various authors thru Christmas Eve!

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  10. new to me author. where do you get your story ideas?

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  11. Thanks for sharing!! Sounds wonderful!!

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  12. Where do I get my story ideas? I always have ideas that occur to me, when I'm walking, when I'm eating, when I sitting or goofing. They're just a line or two, such as "what if a girl was jilted at the altar? How would that impact her life going forward?" I always jot them down, so I have a long list of possible story ideas. When it's time to start a new novel, I take out my list and start looking thru the snippets. One or two will usually jump out at me, and I start thinking and plotting to decide if it could be turned into a 400 page book. Not all ideas can be made into a book. I have lots of characters and lots of plot twists and turns, so it takes a lot of planning and a really good idea to be able to turn it into a novel. Since I'm "new" to you as an author, I hope you'll try some of my books. They're so fun and not like any other novels out there on the market. And they're fast reads that you can't put down. I'd like to suggest either my Jilted Brides that came out in Sept, or my "Forever" series from last year. Both are really yummy.

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  13. It's so sweet and romantic to read about these "first kisses"

    Me, personally, can't remember mine. I would like to think it was romantic and cute, but truly if it wasn't memorable, then it most likely wasn't 😕😧😒

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  14. I have a question. How do you pick names that you know will be appropriate for the time era you are setting your Story in? Merry Christmas

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  15. The books sound good you are new to me.

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  16. It's been a couple years since I've read Cheryl's books... I'm going to have to go find one to read now. :) Thanks for the chance to win!

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  17. Sweet beginning. I admit I’m relieved that Waterloo is in their past. Would love to read more of their story.

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  18. What is your favorite book? iluv2laugh@hotmail.com

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  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

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