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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dancing with a Rogue...with Lecia Cornwall and Giveaway


Dancing with a Rogue on Christmas Eve - Lecia Cornwall

Lecia Cornwall lives in Calgary Alberta, in the foothills of the beautiful Canadian Rockies, with two grown children, four cats, a chocolate lab and a husband who puts up with all of the above with remarkable patience. Lecia's debut novel was published by Avon in April 2011. And, she is, of course, busy working on yet another book.

Places to find Lecia:

Dancing With A Rogue On Christmas Eve

Happy Holidays, Dear Reader! I love being part of the Historical Christmas Eve event!

This year, my theme is Dancing With A Rogue on Christmas Eve. Although Lord Jamison Crossfield once plagued Lady Violet Duffield unbearably with mud and taunts and mice, he’s changed in the three years since she last saw him. And when he comes to her rescue, not once, but twice on a snowy Christmas Eve, well— What lady wouldn’t be looking for the nearest mistletoe?

A note about the names: While I was planning this scene back in October, I was waiting for my daughter at the train station. At home, I have a books of character names, but in the car, I was stuck with only a crumpled Chinese take-out menu and a map of Alberta, Canada—my home. All the names in the story are Alberta place names—even Galahad. As I wrote the scene in December, a ferocious arctic blizzard made the world outside my window look like a Christmas card, so I’d say those names are lucky, and perfect for a white Christmas.

***

CHAPTER ONE

On a snowy Christmas Eve….

Lady Violet Duffield teetered on the very top of a long ladder, determined to hang the kissing ball just so. It had to go above the window in the library that, in her opinion, framed the very best view of Ashmont Castle’s lovely setting.

She peered outside. It had been snowing all day, and the world was pure and beautiful. The trees wore white velvet, the lawn sparkled, and the old knot garden was draped in glittering crystal.

Violet sighed. Could it be more perfect for a Christmas proposal? In a few short hours, just before midnight, Viscount Wimborne would go down on one knee right here beneath the kissing ball, and ask her to marry him. She would accept at once, and they would announce their betrothal at tonight’s Christmas Eve ball, where she would show off a diamond ring as clear and bright as a Christmas star.

“What on earth are you doing up there?” someone asked sharply, and Violet turned. The ladder creaked a warning.

“Jamie! You’re here early,” she said, surprised to see him. He was an old and dear family friend, since his father’s estates marched with her father’s. Lord Jamieson Crossfield was to be a guest at tonight’s ball, an honored guest, because he’d been away from home for nearly three years, gone for a soldier—well, a captain in a cavalry regiment—to fight with Lord Wellington in Spain.

The sight of him gave her pause—not just because he was a welcome visitor, but because he’d changed since she’d last seen him. It was to be expected of course, but she scanned his face, looking for the Jamie she remembered, the lad she’d grown up with. He used to push her into the mud, pull her pigtails mercilessly and make fun of her freckles.

But now, he stood below her with snow in his hair, which was slowly beginning to melt, making him look bejeweled. His shoulders were wider, his legs longer, and his face was harder, sharper, yet somehow handsomer than she recalled. The gray eyes that regarded her were more serious now. He was entirely familiar, yet different. Something shifted in her chest.

“I thought you were coming to the ball with your father, and your brother,” she said, still perched atop the ladder, frozen there by the sight of him.

“I was on my way home to Longview, but the snow is making travel rather difficult. Since I knew I would reach the shelter of Ashmont Castle well before I saw my father’s gates, I thought I’d better stop now, or risk spending the night in a snow bank,” he said. Her toes curled in her shoes. Was his voice deeper than it used to be?

“Does that mean your family may not arrive for the ball at all?” she asked, dismayed.

“I suppose there’s a possibility of that. Even such a short distance will be difficult to travel tonight. I’m getting a pain in my neck talking to you up there. What are you doing?” he asked again.

“Putting up the kissing ball,” she said, and turned to adjust the ribbon. The ladder groaned.

Violet suddenly felt herself flying, as the ladder went one direction, and she went the other. She cried out and braced herself to land hard in the middle of the Turkey carpet, which was rapidly rushing up to meet her.

She landed in a pair of strong arms instead, just as the ladder crashed to the floor behind her. She clutched Jamie’s neck as he tumbled backward onto the carpet, still holding her, protecting her from harm. “Are you all right?” he asked, his face inches from hers, her body lying on top of his in an ungainly sprawl.

She felt as if she were ten years old again, clumsy and awkward. But he wasn’t the boy he’d been. She could feel the hardness of his limbs under her, the muscles that had saved her. Her heart pounded—from the shock of falling, of course. What else could it be? She met his eyes, but he looked calm and cool, as if he rescued ladies every day.

“I think so,” she said, trying to catch her breath, trying to rise as delicately as possible. He was on his feet before she was, and he scooped her up in his arms again and

carried her to the settee. He put her down carefully, and let his gaze run over her body, checking for visible injuries.

“Does anything hurt, any bumps?” he asked.

She shook her head and felt a blush heat her skin under his scrutiny, despite the fact that this was Jamieson Crossfield, a lad she’d known all her life, almost another brother. Except he wasn’t anymore. She resisted the urge to fold her arms over her breasts.

The door opened and her father’s butler entered, followed by two footmen. “My lady, forgive the intrusion, but I heard a crash,” he said, and looked at the fallen ladder as if it had caused deep offense.

“Good evening Burton. No harm done—Lady Violet took a tumble, but she’s quite well,” Jamieson said.

“You should have asked for assistance, my lady,” The butler admonished stiffly, straightening his coat. Violet sent him a smile to let him know she was indeed unharmed. He indicated that the footmen should remove the ladder at once.

“I just heard you’d arrived, Lord Crossfield, straight out of the storm. Can I bring you anything?”

Jamie grinned. Now that was something Violet remembered.

“I was hoping you’d ask, Burton. I haven’t eaten since breakfast. Perhaps a pot of hot tea and a scone or two—or some of Mrs. Harris’s lemon tarts, if she has any put by for Christmas.”

Burton’s frosty demeanor thawed slightly. “Of course she has—she knows they’re your favorite, but I shall bring you more than that, my lord,” Burton promised. “A steaming bowl of rum punch should warm you up.”

“Perfect. Will you tell Lord Anthony that I’ve arrived? I’ll need to borrow some proper clothes for the ball this evening.” He turned to Violet. “Your brother is here, I trust?”

“Of course,” she said, imagining him in eveningwear.

Jamie crossed to warm his hands at the fireplace, and Violet sat up, watching him. The orange glow of the flames reflected on the planes of his face, and she noted a thin silver scar along the edge of his jaw that hadn’t been there before. She pleated her fingers in a fold of her skirt, resisting the urge to touch it.

“It is good to see you,” she said. “We heard you were wounded.”

“A shot in the dark, shall we say—I was caught in a skirmish with a French patrol, and took a bullet in the arm. I’m quite well now.”

She leaped to her feet. “Oh no—did catching me hurt, or put strain on the injury?” she asked, and touched his arm, squeezing to check for damage. He smiled at her, and the firelight made him look almost devilish.

“Actually, it’s my other arm,” he said. She jerked her hand away.

“Oh.”

“It appears I got here at the perfect moment, or you might have been the one with your arm in a sling.”

Violet bit her lip. “That would have been dreadful!”

His brows quirked. “Indeed.”

Did he think she was mocking his war wound? She felt her skin heat. “If I’d broken something, I wouldn’t have been able to dance at the ball tonight, and I have been so looking forward to it. ” She smiled at him, unable to keep her joy contained. “Mama has given me permission to waltz tonight, at midnight, the stroke of Christmas. I’ve been practicing for weeks.”

“Is it a special occasion?” he asked.

She felt her heart surge. “I have hopes it will be. Oh, Jamie, can I tell you a secret?”

“Of course, but I thought I knew all your secrets. I stole your diary and read it, remember?” he teased.

“I was twelve,” she said.

He sobered slightly. “Indeed, and you’re all grown up. No doubt you have far more interesting secrets now.”

She felt her skin flush, and stepped away from the heat of the fire, and him. “Of course I have. In fact, I have every hope and expectation that a certain gentleman will propose to me tonight.” She clasped her hands together. “He will ask, I will say yes, and we will waltz together as soon as father makes the announcement. It will be terribly romantic.”

He pointed to the kissing ball. “That, I assume is to bring him to the point. Who is he, by the way?”

She felt a sigh well in her chest. “Viscount Wimborne.”

His smile faded, and his forehead creased. “Galahad Wimborne?”

“Yes!” she said joyfully. “Do you know him?”

“I do. He’s an—interesting—chap. We were at Cambridge together, briefly. Where did you—”

“Jamieson!” The Countess of Mossleigh swept into the room and crossed to kiss her godson on the cheek. “Burton just told me you’d arrived. I’m so glad you won’t miss the ball tonight. We’ve arranged a room for you, and Anthony’s valet is selecting some evening clothes for you, and there’s a light repast on the way. I had to stop Mrs. Harris from putting a roast of beef on to cook just for you.”

She looked at her daughter. “Violet, you should be upstairs getting dressed—it’s getting late.”

Violet glanced at the clock. “So it is,” she said. Wimborne would be here within the hour. Was he as eager to see her as she was to see him? Her heart did a pirouette in her chest as she hurried toward the door. “I’ll see you at the party, Jamie.”

He gave her a mocking bow. “Will you save me a dance?”

She sent him a pert look. “I shall be very busy, of course, but I will try and fit you in for one of the country dances before supper.”

He sent her a heart-stopping smile, and her heart spun yet again. “That will do very well.”


CHAPTER TWO

When old acquaintances meet again…

Two hours later, having bathed, dined, and borrowed a valet and a set of evening clothes, Lord Jamieson Crossfield, second son of the Earl of Beauvallon, Captain of the Royal Dragoons, and dear friend of the Duffield family, once again found himself in the library of Ashton Castle.

“To the season, and to your safe and very welcome return, m’boy,” The Earl of Mossleigh said, and raised his glass.

“Here, here,” said Lord Anthony Duffield, Violet’s older brother. “And here’s to another successful Christmas ball. Violet has babbled about nothing else for weeks.”

Jamie glanced at the Kissing Ball Violet had hung in the alcove by the window. Was Violet truly old enough to marry? She must be twenty by now. The last time he’d seen her had been a few months before her first London Season, and she’d berated him because he was leaving for Spain, and would miss her debut ball. He remembered thinking at the time that poor Violet would need all the pre-arranged dancing partners she could get—she’d been skinny, freckled and clumsy. He’d left for war without another thought about her.

His hand tightened on his glass, letting the cut crystal points bite into his flesh. Violet had definitely changed in three years.

She was still clumsy, of course—he shuddered to think what might have happened if he hadn’t been standing below the ladder when she fell. Galahad Wimborne would have been most disappointed. He recalled the slight weight of her body in his arms, the way she’d clung to him for a brief instant, frightened. She used to be afraid of mice—he remembered chasing her, along with his brother and Anthony to put them down her back, just to hear her scream.

She very obviously wasn’t a little girl anymore. He’d been very aware of her feminine curves as her breasts pressed into his chest, and her coltish legs had tangled with his. He’d felt electricity when he found himself staring into the gold, copper, and green whirl of her eyes for a long moment before her eyelashes dropped like curtains.

Somehow, over the past two years, Lady Violet Duffield had become a beauty.

Jamie sipped Lord Mossleigh’s excellent whisky, felt it burn a path to his belly.

He wondered where Violet had met Galahad Wimborne, and just how she’d managed to fall in love with him, of all the men in the realm. When Jamie had known him, Gally Wimborne had been a dry stick, dull, dreary, and boring. Perhaps he’d changed as much as Violet had. He hoped so, for her sake.

Lord Mossleigh drained his glass. “Drink up, gentlemen. Duty calls, and our guests should be arriving shortly, at least those who can brave the storm. We’d best make our way to the ballroom before my lovely countess comes and drags us there.”

Jamieson stopped dead in his tracks when he reached the hall.

Violet was coming down the stairs.

Her gown was white lace, trimmed with silver. She wore pearls and rubies at her ears, neck and wrists. Her dark hair was piled high, wound through with ribbons and jewels.

She took his breath away. He stood there until she reached the last step, staring like a ninny, unable to move. His stomach flipped when she smiled at him.
Her eyes roamed over him. “I see you found a coat and some dancing shoes to fit you.” He watched a slight blush rise in her cheeks. “It’s a trifle small here, perhaps,” she said, brushing his shoulder with a gloved hand. “I remember—that is I thought—that you were the same size as Anthony.”

Anthony Duffield chuckled. “I didn’t spend three years in the cavalry, sister dear. It’s muscle.” He lightly punched Jamie’s shoulder, breaking the spell. “I daresay Jamie’s noticed you aren’t the same skinny horror you used to be, too.”

Now her blush rivaled the rubies at her throat.

“You do look lovely, Lady Violet,” Jamie said gallantly, and kissed her hand. For an instant he felt her fingers tighten on his, then she let go, and tossed her head, making her jewels glitter.

“How silly you both are. We’d best go in and wait for our guests,” she said. She looked up at the clock and bit her lip. “Do you think the snow will prevent Lord Wimborne from arriving?”

Jamieson would ride through any snowstorm, hell itself, to reach Violet’s side, and he wasn’t in love with her. He offered her his arm. “The storm might delay him slightly—only slightly, mind you—but I daresay he wouldn’t miss being here tonight for anything in the world.”

She laid her gloved hand on his sleeve, and looked up at him, giving him a smile of such pure rapture that Jamie felt as if he’d just received the very best Christmas present of all.


CHAPTER THREE

And the best-laid plans go awry …

The ballroom was fragrant and festive with evergreen boughs, holly, and ivy. A thousand candles reflected the warm glow in hearts and eyes, and made champagne and jewels sparkle.

Violet danced with Viscount Wimborne twice, anticipating the moment when he would sweep her away to a private corner and make her the happiest lady on earth. Then, the waltz at midnight would be their third dance. She sighed and smiled at him. Lord Wimborne was not a demonstrative man—he smiled back, but carefully, and held her hand during the country dance and the Scottish Reel with the utmost correctness. There was no suggestive squeezing of her fingertips or meaningful glances when the intricate steps of the dance brought them together, no regretful glances as he danced away again. Still, her heart swelled to be by his side. They looked well together, didn’t they? She caught Jamie watching her from across the room, leaning insouciantly against a pillar. She sent him a look of pure joy, but he merely raised one eyebrow and nodded. It didn’t matter—she was with the man she adored.

The Scottish Reel ended and she made her curtsy to Lord Wimborne —Galahad—she must start thinking of him by his first name, since very soon he would be her betrothed.

“I shall be in the library,” she whispered behind her fan, and slipped away before she could be engaged for the next dance by anyone else.

He bowed without any change in his flat expression, and she hurried out, her heart thumping in her chest. It was nearly eleven o’clock. Soon, all her dreams would come true.

At eleven-fifteen, she peered into the ballroom, and Galahad Wimborne was speaking to a group of people. She frowned in frustration. A lady’s laughter rang out, and she saw Galahad’s head turn, watched him look across the room. His expression softened, and she read the love in his eyes that she’d hoped to see, but it wasn’t for her.

Tears stung the back of her eyes, and Violet fled before they arrived.

***

At eleven thirty, Lord Mossleigh raised his hand for silence, and the music and chatter ebbed.

Jamie grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing footman, and braced for the announcement. His chest was tight he looked around for the happy couple, and he pasted on a pleasant look, if not exactly a smile, determined to kiss Violet’s cheek and wish her well when the moment came. He’d bow to Wimborne and shake his hand, but he swore now that and if the man ever made Violet unhappy in any way, he’d find him and shoot him.

The earl beckoned and the happy couple made their way through the crowd. “I am most pleased to announce the betrothal of Viscount Galahad Wimborne and Miss Harriet Ferintosh.”

Jamie leaned back against the pillar and stared in surprise. Miss Ferintosh was smiling the way Violet had smiled in the library—a look filled with joy, love and anticipation. Wimborne had barely smiled all night, but he was grinning now.

Jamie didn’t join the crush of well wishers. He scanned the crowds for Violet.

She wasn’t here. Did she know? Surely she must. His heart went out to her.

She would need a friend.

He decided to check the library first, where she’d hung the damned kissing ball. He set the champagne down untouched, and strode down the hall.

The kissing ball was reflected in the light of the falling snow, but the alcove below it was empty. Jamie cursed and looked out the window. Was she upstairs sobbing into her pillow? He looked again.

She was sitting on the terrace in the dark with the snow falling around her, staring out at the dark garden in her white gown.

He pushed open the French door and went out. She looked over her shoulder briefly, and he read the disappointment in her eyes, saw the tears before she turned away again. Without a word, he took off his coat and draped it over her shoulders.

“You know?” she asked.

He sat beside her, took her icy hand in his. “That Gally Wimborne wasn’t right for you? Yes, I knew.”

Her lips rippled. “You might have told me.”

“Perhaps I should have. Did you—do you—love him?”

She looked up at the snow, trying to stem the flow of tears. “I thought I did, but when I saw the look in his eyes, the way he looked at Harriet, and the way she looked back at him, I’m not so sure.”

He put his arm around her. “Hold out for that look, sweetheart. You deserve nothing less.” The stains of the waltz began, singing out over the snow, and she sighed. A fat tear landed on his hand and turned to ice. “Would you like to go back inside?” he asked.

She shook her head. “No, I don’t think I could bear to watch Harriet waltzing, with everyone thinking how lucky she is, saying that she’ll make a beautiful bride.”

“Seems a shame, though, after all that practice.” He got to his feet, bowed and offered his hand. “May I have this waltz?”

She looked up at him in surprise, her eyes wide and soft, her lips parted, and he thought for a moment that she would refuse him. “Come on—there’s no one to see us.”

She rose to her feet.

He put his hand on her waist, and she put hers on his shoulder, and took her into his arms. She kept her eyes on his—very vulnerable, very sad eyes. He smiled down at her, wanting her to believe she was the most beautiful lady here tonight, that she deserved every happiness, every joy, and all the love a man could give her.

He swept her into the dance and whirled her across the terrace through the falling snow.

“You waltz divinely, if I may say,” he told her.

“I am more surprised that you waltz—being a soldier.”

He grinned at her. “I am a man of hidden talents.”

There was snow on her eyelashes, on her hair. Her smile was fragile.

“Yes, I’m beginning to think you are.” He spun her through the steps even faster, making them both dizzy, and her skirts swirled around them.

She was breathless when the music ended, and they stood in the deep silence somewhere between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Her eyes were wide in the dim light, her cheeks flushed. She was covered with snow, sparkled.

They had come to a stop outside the window of the library. The kissing ball hung just above them, on the other side of the glass.

He looked down at her, saw the beat of the pulse at her throat, noted the way she was looking up at him in sweet surprise. His mouth watered. He almost pitied Galahad Wimborne, since he would never see Violet in this light, and wish—

He swallowed. “Merry Christmas, Violet,” he said, and lowered his lips toward her. He did the gentlemanly thing, what a kind friend or a brother would do, and kissed her on the forehead. He knew she was not ready for more, not now, tonight—though he was. He wished he could stay here in the snow, draw her close, and kiss her the way a man kisses a woman he admires.

She stared up at him, her eyes wide pools, her feelings unreadable, and he forced himself to step back. “Shall we go inside?” he asked, holding out his arm. She took it, and he escorted her back to her father’s ballroom.


CHAPTER FOUR

There comes another snowy Christmas Eve, one year later …

Lady Violet Duffield teetered on the very top of the ladder, determined to hang the kissing ball just so. She had hopes of a proposal tonight and everything had to be perfect.

This year Burton was holding the base of the ladder as she applied the final touches, artfully arranging the sprigs of the mistletoe and juniper, and adjusting the ribbon.

“You should not be up there, my lady, after last year’s incident. Lord Crossfield is not here to catch you this year, and I’m not a young man any longer,” the butler said.

Violet glanced out the window at the snow battering the fragile panes of glass, then looked across at the clock. It was getting late indeed, and he had not yet arrived.

She descended the ladder without incident and smiled at the look of relief on the butler’s face. “There, Burton—safe and sound. I think I’ll go up and get dressed now that’s done. Will you send someone up to tell me when Lord Crossfield arrives?”

She hurried upstairs. It had been an entire year since she realized she didn’t love Viscount Wimborne. By now, he and Harriet were probably married, and she wished them well, truly she did. It would have been a dreadful mistake if Galahad had proposed to her last Christmas Eve. She had known she had far deeper feelings for someone else entirely, someone she never expected to love.

She had often found herself in his company during the past year, but had not dared to hope that he felt the same way.

During the Spring Season in London, she had danced with him at almost every ball where they’d both been in attendance. He made her laugh, made her sigh with longing for something more than a mere kiss on the forehead. She’d gone riding or driving or walking in the park with him on a number of occasions.

She had attended the theatre with her brother, and saw him there with another lady, which had been followed by three days of pacing her room, wondering if he loved someone else, and she had given her heart foolishly yet again.

In June, her brother Anthony had married Lady Alice Lindbrook, and she had toasted the happy couple by his side. In August, she was invited to the christening of his sister’s firstborn child. In September, she had danced with him at a harvest ball at Longview, his father’s estate.

Whenever they were together, he smiled and kept her company, but he had shown only the vaguest hints of an affection that went deeper than friendship. She yearned for more, for kisses and love notes, and long sweet looks, but there were none of those. On occasion, she had caught him looking at her, his expression thoughtful, but then he would smile and make a joke, or turn away.

She had not seen him at all since the harvest ball, though she would sit for hours in the window of the salon, pretending to read, but in truth hoping he might come riding up the long drive. He did not.

She bit her lip now as her maid helped her into her gown for the evening—golden silk this time, trimmed with red satin Christmas roses.

He was coming tonight—he had accepted Mossleigh’s invitation to the Christmas Eve ball. He’d even included a note asking her to save him a dance, and she hoped, wished, prayed, that he might choose to make his feelings known at last, if those feelings matched hers. Her heart jumped like a nervous squirrel at every chime of the clock.

She looked at the swirling snow beyond the window as her maid wove pearls into her hair, and fastened a diamond and pearl collar around her neck.

She hurried downstairs, but he wasn’t waiting at the foot of the steps. She felt as if a wet blanket had been thrown over her. Her father waited there instead, and he smiled proudly. “You look lovely tonight, Violet.”

“Thank you, papa.” She kissed his cheek. “Is Jamieson here yet—and the rest of his family, of course?” she asked.

“Martin and Sarah have arrived, but Jamie wasn’t with them. He was supposed to come down from London yesterday, but with all this snow I fear he won’t make it after all.” Violet swallowed bitter disappointment, and forced a smile as she went into the ballroom with her parents, scanning the faces, watching the door, in case he might still come.

But the doorway remained empty, and Burton shook his head each time she inquired if there were any late arrivals. By eleven thirty, it was clear that he wasn’t coming after all.

Just before midnight, the first strains of the waltz began, and Violet felt tears fill her eyes. She slipped away to the terrace. The snow fell thick and silent, landing in icy pin pricks on her skin, contrasting with hot tears. She rubbed them away fiercely. In a moment she would go inside, paste a jolly Yuletide smile back on her face, raise a cup of wassail and pretend—

“I believe this is our dance.”

She spun and stared at him in the doorway. He was still wearing the clothing he’d traveled in, snow-covered and muddy from the road. He needed shaving, and probably a bath, a meal and rest, but he stood here, waiting to dance with her. Her heart swelled as his gaze swept over her, drinking her in, and she saw it—the look she’d waited to see, not just for a year, but all her life. “Oh, Jamie,” she whispered.

She crossed the terrace in three long steps and he opened his arms to catch her. She shut her eyes as he folded her against his chest and held her.

“I’m not fit for proper company, I’m afraid,” he murmured. “But there wasn’t time to change if I wanted to be here for the waltz.”

She set her hand on his shoulder, and he set his on her waist.

“I have never waltzed in boots before,” he said, taking the first steps, his eyes on hers.

She hadn’t noticed, didn’t care. She let him whirl her through the steps, reveling in the company as much as the motion of the dance, the miracle that he was here, and they were waltzing in the snow, and he was looking at her as if— her feet faltered, and he caught her, lifted her, swung her effortlessly into the next step and set her down. She looked up and met his gaze, saw the love in his eyes, all for her.

They glided to a stop as the music ended, just outside the library window, under the kissing ball. “I see you hung up the kissing ball again,” he said.

She stared at the folds of his cravat, felt her cheeks heating. “I had hopes you see, that a certain gentleman would arrive tonight, and—” she paused. She was being presumptuous. “Kiss me?” she finished shyly.

He smiled into her eyes, ran his thumb over her cheek. She held her breath and waited to see if he would offer her another peck on the forehead. But this time he lifted her chin, and lowered his face to hers. She closed her eyes as their lips met.

She was scarcely aware that the snow was falling, that the Christmas bells were ringing out from the village church, a mile away. She was wrapped in his arms, and he was kissing her, and everything was perfect.

He let her go and she opened her eyes, wanting him back. “Marry me?” he asked, and she felt her heart soar. She cupped his face in her hands and kissed his eyes, his cheeks, his ears, his jaw, then found his mouth.

“Yes,” she whispered against his lips. “Yes.”

And neither of them spoke again for a very long time.



An ancient curse, a pair of meddlesome ghosts, a girl on the run, and a case of mistaken identity make for the perfect chance at true love.

Lady Caroline Forrester is on the run from her brother's scheme to marry her off to the highest bidder. An escape to Scotland offers a chance at employment as a governess and freedom from an unhappy marriage—it's the perfect solution. But Caroline wasn't prepared for the feelings that her new employer brings out in her.

Alec McNabb, the reluctant Earl of Glenorne, never expected to return home to Scotland. But now that he's there, he realizes he has obligations that he cannot escape. Alec needs to marry well, and quickly.

When a case of mistaken identity coupled with the sensual, magical atmosphere of Glenorne castle results in a passionate encounter, Caroline and Alec must decide whether their attraction is enough to overcome the problems of their pasts. Or whether their one chance at true love was over before it began...

Purchase: | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes |

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60 comments :

  1. Lecia!!!! That story was so romantic!!! I love how you wrote it like you would a novella~ Even adding in background information on events and past gatherings. You're amazing!!!

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    1. Hi Kipha—I love Christmas novellas, and this was such a fun story to write!

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  2. I really enjoyed that. Thank you for this chance to win, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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    1. Glad you liked it, Diane—and Merry Christmas to you, too!

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  3. Wow, that blog post above is enough for me. I have to read this story now.

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  4. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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  5. Merry Christmas to you, too, Sue—Looks like we're going to have a white Christmas here in Alberta, which is wonderful!

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  6. Love Christmas stories and to get such a lengthy excerpt was nice. On my TBR list. Thanks.

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  7. Have a wonderful Christmas, Knye!

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  8. Happy Holidays. Love the excerpts and just put them on my TRL.
    Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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  9. Oh boy that was a wonderful love story! Thanks for sharing :) I love Christmas story's too. I can read them all year around.
    Happy Holidays,
    Lori


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    1. Christmas stories are so much fun! I usually end up writing mine during the summer. Next year's Christmas story, ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND CHRISTMAS, is due to my editor at the beginning of June 2014, so I'll be planting flowers with one hand, creating a romantic Scottish Christmas with the other!

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  10. Dealing with disappointment is hard but I'm glad Jamie and Violet found each other. Thank you for the beautiful story!

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  11. Hi Chanpreet—I'm a great believer that everything happens for a reason, and when a door closes on one opportunity, a window is opening somewhere else—probably with a much better view.

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  12. Lecia, that is a truly wonderful story!! So sweet! It is perfect. (Although I don't think anyone would complain if you made it into a full length novel!)

    Merry Christmas!

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  13. I really enjoyed that. Wanna read more!!
    Thanks for sharing :)
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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  14. Hello Filia—So glad you liked it! Happy Holidays!

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  15. Ooh, I loved it. Now I'm eager to read more. This is the perfect holiday story. Thanks for the chapters and giveaway.
    Happy Holidays!

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  16. There's just something about Christmas romances that make all the snow and mistletoe come alive!

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  17. Gosh, Lecia, I was amazed at the depth of this short story--so complete and so special for this season...and for Violet and Jamieson! A very sweet romance. I'm so glad to have been able to read this post this morning...to put me in the mood for a very good day, and week to come! jdh2690@gmail.com

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    1. Hi Janice—so glad you enjoyed it! Hope your holidays are full of warmth, love and good cheer!

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  18. I really enjoyed that. Wanna read more!!
    Thanks for sharing :)
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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  19. Loved your story. That's why you're the writer and I'm the reader! A true writer can be anyplace at all and write a story. I would never imagine to use a map for inspiration in naming characters...but it works. Thanks for the giveaway.
    kareninnc at gmail dot com

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    1. Thanks Karen—those are very kind words. Some days, you have to take inspiration where you can find it!

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  20. I really enjoyed the story, wish it were longer. Thanks and Merry Christmas!

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  21. I loved your story! Merry Christmas!

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  22. Thanks Sharlene! Merry Christmas.

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  23. Omg! Thank you, Lecia, for such a wonderful treat of a story. I feel like I just ate an entire box of chocolates--what a sweet and indulgent story. Now I don't feel the need to eat any more chocolate for the day. :) Thank you for saving my diet! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Lecia!

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  24. No calories, I swear, just all the warmth of holiday cheer! Still, just a few more days until we can open those special holiday chocolates and indulge for a day or two.

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  25. Thank you for this chance to win,. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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  26. Oh what a lovely story, that was just delicious. :D

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  27. Hi Lecia!

    Ever since I read Secrets of a Proper Countess I've loved your books because your characters always pull me into their story! I love your Christmas story about Violet and Jamie so much I was wondering if you had thought of them appearing in another of your stories as secondary characters?

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    1. I'm working on two new manuscripts (sequels to Once Upon A Highland Summer) and Jamie and Violet might be perfect in the next book!

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  28. I always love to know an author's methods. Names happen to be my favorites!

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    1. Names say so much about a person, don't they?

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  29. I enjoyed your sweet, romantic story.

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  30. I loved the story thank you! Merry Christmas
    Penney

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  31. I loved the short story.
    What is your favorite thing to do with your children at Christmas?

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    1. My children are 18 and 22 now. I am so blessed to have them home for at least one more family Christmas. We play board games, watch our favourite Christmas movies and specials (The Grinch, Rudolph, Love Actually, It's A Wonderful Life, White Christmas and Camelot), and we make ice luminary, bake and cook together, decorate, wrap and my daughter practices her fledgling mixology skills. I miss having little ones, but love the changes and new things each year brings. How bout you, Lori? Do you have little ones at home?

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  32. thank you for such a sweet story! Just the right pick me up I need :)

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  33. And don't we all need a pick-me-up by this point in the festive season? Merry Christmas, Erin!

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  34. Such a beautiful Christmas story thank you, and yes I think the names are lucky indeed. I would love a white Christmas. lisagk(at)yahoo

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  35. Here's hoping you have a white Christmas, Lisa. Even here in Calgary Alberta we often have temperatures at Christmas that are more like spring. The last 'perfect' Christmas I remember—the kind with snow on Christmas Day—was the year my daughter was born, 19 years ago. Still, there's snow on the ground here this year, and it's very pretty.

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  36. I love it! It was sweet, romantic, and well everything I could ask for in a cold night before sleeping.

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  37. thanks for the giveaway chance!

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  38. Hi, Lecia! I loved your story. Thanks for the giveaway!

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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  39. I haven't read Lecia's books yet, but after reading that I'm sure I will.

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  40. Thanks for the chance to win!
    Happy Holidays!

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  41. I'd love to read this book.
    theresa n
    weceno(at)yahoo(dot)com

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