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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Caught in a Snowstorm...with Sophie Barnes and Giveaway


Caught in a Snowstorm on Christmas Eve - Sophie Barnes

Born in Denmark, Sophie has spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places all around the world. She’s lived in five different countries, on three different continents, and speaks Danish, English, French, Spanish and Romanian.

She has studied design in Paris and New York and has a bachelor’s degree from Parson’s School of design, but most impressive of all – she’s been married to the same man three times, in three different countries and in three different dresses.

While living in Africa, Sophie turned to her lifelong passion – writing.

When she’s not busy, dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading. She currently lives on the East Coast.

Places to find Sophie:
| Site | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads |

Caught In A Snow Storm On Xmas Eve

In this short story, Miss Serena Matheson and Matthew Bryant are finally reunited after being kept apart for five years. They were friends once, but with such an expanse of time having come between them, is it possible for them to be friends again, or for them to find in each other the love they so dearly want but have long since begun giving up on?

These are new characters, brought to life by the theme I received from Ramblings From This Chick. I hope you’ll enjoy it and that it will bring to life the spirit of Christmas as I envision it: a cozy spot by the fire with the people that I care about, while snow falls heavily outside in the frosty air.

***

Miss Serena Matheson cursed her own stubbornness as she followed the road on her way home from town. If only she hadn’t been so determined to visit Mrs. Hodgens that morning. But after the old lady had caught a rather sever cold, Serena had been bringing her warm meals daily. Since tonight was Christmas Eve, Serena’s cook had been laboring in the kitchen for days, preparing treats for the Matheson household. Unfortunately, it looked as though Serena would be the only one to enjoy them since her father had yet to recover from losing his wife the year before. He had categorically refused to participate in any form of celebration. With that in mind, Serena had decided to share some pies and meats with Mrs. Hodgens, except she’d ended up dallying over tea and had failed to notice when the first snow had begun to fall. Now, making her way home, she drew the hood of her cloak down over her head as frosty flakes churned around her. A storm had set in, and Serena had been caught in the middle of it. Worst of all, there was still another mile to go before she reached the warm comfort of the house that she and her father shared, and that was without considering the discomfort of her cold feet which were wet from the snow that had crept inside her boots.

Clearing her eyes with the back of her hand, she gazed off into the distance and the disappearing road that lay ahead. Everything was a blur of white, save for an orange glow that shone to the right of where she stood. A cool wind whipped across her back, snatching at her cloak. She wrapped her arms more tightly around herself and pondered her options. It didn’t take long for her to make a decision, for her lungs had already begun to burn, her whole body trembling from a bone-deep chill.

Ignoring the weariness that swamped her body, Serena began making her way along the driveway that would take her to Thorncliff – a grand stone edifice with a sprawling park-like garden laid out behind it. Serena knew the family who lived their well enough, even though her own parents had never been nearly as affluent as the Bryants. Still, she had fond memories of playing with their eldest son Matthew. She’d even had a tendre for him once, but that was a long time ago, before he’d gone away to study at Eton and later at Oxford. Now that she thought about it, she probably hadn’t seen him in close to five years since he and his family always holidayed somewhere else: in the Lake District during the summer and at his grandparent’s estate in Scotland for the winter. Consequently, the only people inhabiting Thorncliff at the moment would be the servants. Serena dearly hoped they’d take pity on her and allow her the comfort of warming herself by the fire until the worst of the storm had passed.

Arriving at the front door, Serena braced herself while a gust of wind darted past her. Lifting the heavy iron knocker, she banged as hard as she could in the hope that someone would hear her. A moment passed and then the door eased open, allowing Serena a limited view of the butler. “M…May I…” Heaven above, she could not get the words past her chattering teeth.

“Who is it, Brown?” asked a deep, masculine voice from beyond.

Stepping back, the butler dragged open the door until a tall, broad-shouldered gentleman came into view. His hair was the color of wheat bathed in sunshine, his eyes an inquisitive blue that had always intrigued Serena. “Miss Matheson,” he said, his voice a low murmur that quickly blended with the air around them.

There was no denying that Matthew Bryant, the boy with whom she’d once played, had grown into a fine looking man indeed, making it near impossible for Serena not to stare. Mr. Bryant stared back, his expression exasperatingly inscrutable. So much so that it came as a relief when he finally looked away and, addressing the butler, said, “Please show our guest upstairs, Mr. Brown. Ensure that she receives a hot bath and some dry clothes to change into – I’m sure my sister has something in her wardrobe that will suit.”

“I couldn’t possibly—”

“For the sake of your health, Miss Matheson, you must,” Mr. Bryant said, cutting her off. “Please join me in the library as soon as you’re ready.”

Serena nodded, but she doubted he noticed the gesture since he’d already turned his back on her, his footsteps measured and precise as he strode away.

“This way, Miss Matheson,” the butler said, his affected tone filling the gaping silence.

Serena blinked, recalling how cold she actually was. Seeing Mr. Bryant again had made her forget the discomfort as emotions long since buried had rushed to the surface. Judging from his reaction toward her however, it would be too much to hope for that this unexpected reunion of theirs had affected him to the same degree.

***

Seated in a deep, comfortable chair by the fireplace, Matthew took another sip of his brandy as he gazed into the flames leaping around a thick log. He’d been hoping to see Miss Matheson again. In fact, it was his reason for returning to Thorncliff this year, rather than joining the rest of his family in Scotland where they traditionally spent the holidays. Not this time though, Matthew had decided - especially not after his mother had begun foisting every lovely debutante in the country upon him. She had grand plans for him, his mother. She’d even mentioned a keen desire to see him married to the daughter of a titled gentleman. But the more she spoke on the subject, the clearer it had become to Matthew that the real reason they’d spent every one of his holidays away from Thorncliff, was to keep him away from Miss Matheson. Enough was enough. He’d decided this time that he would rather spend Christmas alone than waste another second wondering what might have been had he not stayed away from his childhood friend for so long.

And then the very girl who’d filled his mind for so very long had appeared upon his doorstep, her face flushed from the cold as the blizzard raged behind her. Except she wasn’t a girl any longer, but a woman with rosy lips and hazel-colored eyes framed by long dark lashes. His chest tightened at the thought of her and he found himself looking at the clock that rested upon the mantelpiece. It was almost an hour since she’d arrived, so he suspected that she must be joining him soon.

A knock sounded and he shot to his feet, nerves on alert as he called for whoever it was to enter. The door opened, revealing his butler. “Miss, Matheson,” Mr. Brown announced, stepping aside so she could enter. Matthew’s breath caught the instant she entered the room. Gone was the voluminous cloak concealing her figure. Instead, she wore a gown sewn from pale green cotton. The sleeves were long, but the neckline was deep enough to show off a lovely expanse of flushed skin above a tempting bosom. Matthew silently thanked his sister for her strict adherence to fashion. “Please,” he said as he forced himself to tear his eyes away from the curve of her hips. He gestured toward the chair that stood next to his, “you may have a seat over here.”

There was a brief hesitation before she did as he suggested, making her way forward while Mr. Brown closed the door behind her. Startled by the sound, she turned back, undoubtedly concerned for her reputation since no unmarried lady ought to be left alone with a gentleman with whom she was not related. Matthew would have none of that however. He’d waited far too long to see her. “You needn’t worry,” he said. “We’re merely trying to keep the rooms warm. Sherry?” He lifted a decanter for her to see.

“Just half a glass,” she said as she went to her chair and sat down.

“Care to tell me what you were doing outside in that awful weather?” He handed her the glass of sherry, delighting in the brief brush of fingertips the gesture offered. Stepping back, he resumed his own seat.

“I went to deliver some Christmas food to Mrs. Hodgens since Papa has no interest in partaking in any of it. He still hasn’t recovered from Mama’s passing.”

“My condolences,” Matthew said. “Mama mentioned it and I…It must have been extremely difficult for you.”

She looked away. “Yes, it was.” She blinked, shook her head dismissively and met his gaze. “In any event, I should have known better than to dally when I saw how gray the sky looked, but Mrs. Hodgens is all alone for Christmas and feeling rather poorly too, so when she offered me a cup of tea…well, I ended up staying longer than I ought. I’m sure Papa must be worried about my whereabouts.”

“I will return you to him as soon as possible – we’ll take the sleigh if the snow’s too deep for the carriage.”

“Thank you, Mr. Bryant. Your generosity is much appreciated.”

He tried to hold her gaze, but her eyes slid away. Still, there was an unmistakable blush to her cheeks as she studied the fire with great intensity. Perhaps she wasn’t as indifferent to him as she wanted to let on. “I do wish you’d call me Matthew, the way you used to when we were younger.”

“That was a long time ago.” Lifting her chin, she studied him a moment before saying, “Why didn’t you respond to the letters I wrote?”

An uneasy feeling settled over him. “Letters?”

“Surely you don’t imagine that we can resume our friendship so easily when you made no effort to stay in touch.”

“I never received any letters,” he said.

“But I wrote several. How is that possible?”

Matthew had a feeling he knew. “I believe my mother must have gotten involved, no doubt offering compensation to those who helped ensure that I never received any mail from you.”

“It never occurred to me that she might dislike me,” Miss Matheson said, somewhat sadly. “In fact, she was always very good to me.”

“Until she became concerned for my future,” Matthew muttered, his eyes latching onto hers.

A tiny shake of her head conveyed her confusion. “What do you mean?”

Serena’s heart beat rapidly in anticipation of Mr. Bryant’s next words. Was he telling her that she’d meant more to him than she’d ever dared believe? As shocked as she was to discover that his mother had actively prevented them from corresponding with each other, she was also relieved. He hadn’t forgotten her, as she’d eventually come to believe.

“I think she suspected that there might have been more than friendship between us back then…a blooming romance perhaps.” His face was perfectly serious as he said it.

A nervous chuckle escaped her. She had no idea of what he might be thinking and though she longed to confess the feelings she’d always had for him, she wasn’t brave enough to bare her heart just yet. What if he didn’t feel the same way? He’d certainly never given her an undeniable reason to believe that he might. “That’s ridiculous,” she found herself saying instead, her eyes keenly watching for his reaction.

“Is it?”

The deep timbre of his voice rumbled through her, prompting her belly to flutter. She found herself incapable of speech, her mind overwhelmed by the significance of the question while her body remained too paralyzed to respond. As it turned out, she wasn’t afforded the chance. Before she could even take a breath to gather her wits, Mr. Bryant was on his knees before her, his hands enveloping hers as she clasped them together in her lap.

“Serena,” he whispered, evoking a sigh somewhere deep within her, a reaction she had no choice but to repeat when he stroked his thumb slowly across her skin. “I’ve never forgotten you, Serena. Searching for rabbit burrows, building hideouts with you in the hedgerows and collecting frogs so we could race them on that track we once made – those are my fondest childhood memories.”

“Mine too,” she confessed, knowing that she couldn’t be anything but completely honest with him when he had dared to make such an admission. “But then you left. Each Summer and Christmas I hoped you might return to Thorncliff so I could see you, but you never did, and eventually I lost hope.”

He leaned toward her, startling her senses with the rich, masculine scent of sandalwood tinged with a hint of brandy. “Would you like to know why I’m here now?” he asked.

He was so close that she could feel the warmth emanating from his body. This was precisely the sort of situation every innocent was warned to avoid, but Serena found herself delighting in the moment even as her heart fluttered around in her chest. “Yes,” she managed.

Dipping his head, he kissed her cheek. “Because you are the only woman I can think of whenever I consider marriage.”

His words, warm against her skin, sent a shiver straight through her. Angling her head so she could look him in the eye, she studied his expression, which she found to be remarkably sincere. “Marriage?”

“I will court you first of course, so we can become reacquainted with each other, but you should know that I can think of nobody else with whom I would rather share my future, and that whenever my mother would take me to London, hoping I would fall for one of the ladies there, the only person I could think of was you. I’m just sorry that it took me so long to return.”

“Your mother won’t be pleased,” Serena said.

Matthew snorted. “I’ve spent far too long adhering to her wishes.” His hand came up around her neck, pulling her closer – so close that there was but a hair’s breadth between their lips. “Tell me that this is what you want as well, Serena - that I’m not a fool for hoping I have a chance to make you mine.”

Closing the distance between them, she touched his lips with her own, reveling in the deep groan that rose from his chest as she wrapped her arms around him, holding him close. If only he knew how desperately she’d longed for this very thing. They’d wasted precious time apart, but now they had a chance to be together again. Joy bubbled inside her as Matthew deepened the kiss with promises of pleasures to come.

“I gather we’re in agreement then?” He asked as he pulled back just enough to look her in the eye.

A smile touched her lips. “I feel as though I’ve loved you forever, you know.”

His eyes widened, and he drew back a little as if to study her. “Truly?”

“Truly,” she said, not minding the look of shock on his face. He needed to know the depth of her feelings for him if this was the course that he wished to take.

“Then our feelings for each other are mutual,” he said, surprising her in turn. “I only regret that we wasted so much time arriving at this conclusion.”
Kissing her tenderly on her forehead, he then rose to his feet and strode toward the window. “The storm has subsided. I should take you home to your father so he doesn’t trouble himself with your wellbeing.”

As much as Serena regretted leaving Matthew’s company when there was still so much for them to talk about and discuss, she knew that he was right. It was Christmas Eve, and her father was probably frantic with worry. Rising, she went to where Matthew stood and allowed him to pull her into his arms.

“I will ask for your father’s permission to court you today,” he said before kissing her fully on the lips. “What better way to celebrate the holidays?”

Serena couldn’t think of any. “It will be the most precious gift I ever received,” she said as she leaned back against the strong arms that encircled her.

She’d waited so long for this moment, never knowing if it would ever arrive. Now that it had, she knew it had been well worth the wait and that this year’s Christmas wasn’t one she was ever likely to forget.



He is the next Marquis of Wolvington…

She is a lady with nothing but beauty and wits…

Together they share a forbidden kiss.

Lady Rebecca is determined to find a husband on her own terms, rather than marry any of the aging suitors her greedy aunt and uncle foist upon her. Her chance comes at the Kingsborough Ball, where she meets several potential grooms…yet no one compares to the dangerously handsome Daniel Neville.

Daniel Neville, notorious rake and heir to the Marquis of Wolvington, is in need of a bride, but finding a lady who’s willing to accept his past, is an entirely different matter. When he spies a stunning woman across the ballroom, Daniel believes he’s found her…until scandal erupts around them. How can he convince Rebecca to take a chance on him…and on the love that could be theirs forever after?

Purchase: | Amazon | Kindle | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository |
Click for info.


 Check out what's up for grabs.

Up For Grabs:
  • 1 copy of The Trouble With Being A Duke + 2 Magnets & 2 Bookmarks

To Enter: 
  • Please leave a comment or question for Sophie.
  • US Shipping ONLY.
  • Please fill out the Rafflecopter form.

**Don't forget to enter the grand prize giveaway!


Good Luck! 

Special thanks to Sophie Barnes for sponsoring this giveaway.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

67 comments :

  1. Thanks for that post. I am dying to read that book. I love Sophie's books

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  2. Thank you so much for hosting me today - it's great to be back again this year for such an awesome event! Looking forward to reading all the other stories as well & wishing you the very best for this holiday season :)

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  3. Oh yes! Sophie has yet another great book that I had placed on my Wish List. Terrific author and I love your book.

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  4. This is being added to my TBR list! I love the excerpt and can't wait for it. The cover is so artiful bold!

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    1. Thanks, Sandy - I hope you'll enjoy the Kingsborough Ball :)

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  5. I enjoyed your short story.
    Sophie what is your favorite thing about Christmas?

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    1. Thank you, Lori :) I'm not sure I can narrow it down to one favorite thing - I love putting up the decorations with the kids on December 1st. In Denmark we celebrate the 24th, so now that I'm married to an American, we have a big dinner on that day (turkey or duck/ham - since pork roast with crackling is impossible to find over here & desert). We then open the presents Christmas morning after breakfast as a group & I just love the atmosphere of everyone gathered around the tree while Christmas carols play in the background - it's wonderful!

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  6. Looks like another great story, Sophie! It looks like my to-be-read pile just got bigger. :D

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  7. Great post! Sounds like another great book from Sophie!

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  8. Thanks for the awesome post!!! Congrats to Sophie on the new release! Sounds fantastic :)

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    1. Thank you, Erin - I'm really excited about this one :)

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  9. I know this will be an excellent read because Sophia is a great author. I've enjoyed all her books and am looking forward to getting caught in a snowstorm ;)
    Thanks
    Lori

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    1. Awww, Lori, You're so sweet! Thank you for your kind words of encouragement :)

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  10. Thanks for your contribution to this year's Christmas stories on the blog. I always enjoy a nice Christmas story.

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  11. Oh, I loved this excerpt so much, Sophie! It really whetted my appetite so that I want to read the complete story of Serena and Matthew. I can't think of anything more romantic for a Christmas story than getting stranded in a snow storm and taking shelter with a man like Matthew. :-) Thank you for posting this excerpt. jdh2690@gmail.com

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    1. Oh no - there is no complete story about Serena and Matthew...hmmm...maybe I should write one? Thanks for posting, Janice :)

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  12. Love the blurb for the book. I'm definitely adding to my to read list. I love finding new authors. :)

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  13. What a wonderful Christmas story! Thanks for sharing. All your books are on my wish list!

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    1. Thank you for letting me know, Glenda - it really means a lot!

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  14. a lady with a mind of her own. Love it. Can't wait to read the whole story.

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    1. Yup, my heroine's do tend to have a bit of backbone :)

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  15. I love Sophie's varied background - I bet that brings a lot to her stories.

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    1. I'm actually writing a blog post about that right now. It didn't occur to me how much my experiences are reflected in my writing until I had to sit down and think about it :)

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  16. I love Sophie's books. Can't wait to read this one too. Merry Christmas!

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  17. Can't wait to read. I am a big Sophie fan. Thanks for the chance to win her newest book.

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    1. Glad to see you here, Janice! Good luck on the giveaway :)

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  18. Thanks for the giveaway! Love the excerpt, it sounds great!

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  19. I loved the story and I'm looking forward to reading more of your books Sophie!

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  20. Thanks for sharing the story with us! I always enjoy your writing. Happy holidays to you and yours.

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    1. Thank you, Michelle - to you and your family as well!

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  21. What a wonderful story. (The only problem is that I want more.) Can't wait for the next at the Kingsborough ball story, on pre-order!

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    1. LOL - what a wonderful compliment, Shar. Thank you!

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  23. I loved the story!
    Thanks for the chance to win!

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  24. Great excerpt! Thanks for a chance to win a copy!

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    1. Hi Sophie and Happy Holidays. Great excerpt. My question would be would any one of your weddings mean more than the others?

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  25. I think I would really like this book! I was wondering, Sophie, what's the best book you've read all year? I'm always looking for good suggestions!

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    1. Hi Meghan! Thanks for posting! I really enjoyed Katharine Ashe's When A Scott Loves A Lady. Her style of writing is so lyrical. I thought it was both different & enjoyable, so definitely worth trying. If you prefer something a bit more humorous, then Sarah MacLean's books are on my must read list, though I've yet to read her latest.

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  26. I just read :The Trouble with Being a Duke". Loved it.
    Thanks, Sharon Pauley

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    1. Thank you, Sharon. So glad to hear you enjoyed it =)

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  27. Thanks for that post. I am dying to read that book and love the cover book too. The picture was catch my eyes!!

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  28. I love it when childhood friends become lovers!

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  29. Oh that was such a magical story Sophie. I just can not wait for more from you, most especially of Rebecca and Wolvington!

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  30. Very romantic short story! Can't wait for your new book! Soon!

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  31. thnks for the giveaway chance!

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  32. I loved Serena's and Matthew's story. Thanks for the giveaway!

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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  33. I love the excerpt .Thanks for the giveaway!

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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