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Monday, December 23, 2019

A Historical Christmas Event with Janna MacGregor

Janna MacGregor was born and raised in the bootheel of Missouri. She credits her darling mom for introducing her to the happily-ever-after world of romance novels. Janna writes stories where compelling and powerful heroines meet and fall in love with their equally matched heroes. She is the mother of triplets and lives in Kansas City with her very own dashing rogue, and a smug, but not surprisingly, perfect pug. She loves to hear from readers.

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Though Jane Hosmer has her adorable pug, Poppy, beside her this holiday season, Jane can’t help but feel a little melancholy. It’s been three long and lonely years since she last saw her special someone, Heath Ladylove. Will this be the fourth Christmas in a row without Heath or will Poppy somehow create a Christmas miracle?

Kissing Boughs and Pampered Pugs

“Poppy, you are a harlot,” Jane Hosmer said laughing.

Her pet pug lay on her back in the middle of the bed with all four paws in the air. The pose, a favorite of the precocious canine, was designed to elicit a much-needed chest rub.
“You poor darling,” Jane cooed as she stroked the fawn fur of Poppy’s chest. Her fingers sank into the softness and a snort of approval erupted from Poppy. “You know all the right things to say to entice me to continue.”

Poppy’s big brown eyes looked adoringly at Jane. She had the same look for her real owner, Heath Lovelady, when she’d last seen him three years ago. That was before he went to Brussels on a special assignment for Wellington, and he’d asked Jane to take care of his dog. Of course, Jane had said yes. Heath was Jane’s brother’s best friend. He was also the man Jane had given her heart to when she was ten years old. At the age of twenty-two, she still didn’t have it back.

Wherever Heath was, that’s where her heart resided.

Jane glanced out the window where the snow swirled in a familiar winter dance. Inside, a beautiful fire blazed in the bedroom’s fireplace and a lovely glass of mulled wine waited for her on the table beside her.

She picked it up and toasted the snowfall. This made the third Christmas that she’d be without Heath. She took a sip wondering whether she ever crept into his thoughts like he did hers. Jane cast such thoughts aside. It was Christmas and she would not allow herself to be sad. It was a time of family and new beginnings.

None of the other guests had arrived at her aunt and uncle’s home for their annual holiday house party. They might not arrive until late tomorrow if the snow continued falling. Within the hour, the landscape had turned into a frosty wonderland. It was beautiful but frigid outside. Frost was already forming on the inside of the windows.

“You’re not going to make me take you out in this, are you, Poppy?”

The pug flipped on her stomach. With a loud canine sigh, she closed her eyes.

“Thank goodness,” Jane whispered. She stood, then finished her ablutions. She threw on an old-discarded banyan that Heath had left at her house right before he traveled to Belgium. Though it was Jane’s personal keepsake, the silk was so worn that Jane feared she might wear a hole in it. It wouldn’t matter. It still carried Heath’s scent. She inhaled deeply, then settled in front of the fireplace. As the fire warmed her outside, the wine warmed her on the inside. She let her thoughts wander to Christmas and couples. What must it be like to celebrate with a special someone such as a man who would only have eyes for you? The small desk clock chimed the midnight hour signaling she should go to bed. But it was Christmas time, and visions of Heath Lovelady danced in her head.

Scratch, scratch, scratch.

Jane’s eyes flew open, and she looked toward the door. Poppy stood next to it with a look that commanded Jane to attend her.

“Of all the nights,” Jane murmured as she stood to put on her half-boots and take the dog outside. “Just a second, Poppy.” She threw a dressing gown that tied at the waist over the bayan, then turned toward the door.

Just then, the pug pawed the door open a crack.

“Poppy, come here.” Jane’s call sounded woefully like she was pleading.

Without a glance back, Poppy shook herself, then pranced right out into the hallway without a look goodbye.

“Poppy, get back here,” Jane cried as she followed the dog.

The pug slowed and took a gander at Jane. Without even a hint of remorse, she turned back around and increased her speed while continuing her path. Poppy was in rare form this evening. She was practically flouncing down the hallway. Suddenly, she stopped in front of a bedroom door where golden light spilled into the hallway. Another guest had arrived before the storm had hit.

“Poppy,” Jane commanded. “Stop.”

The pug turned its head and took a disinterested gander at Jane.

“Come, girl. I have a treeeeat.” Jane coaxed. She actually didn’t, but as soon as she had the dog in her arms, she’d find one.

But only on the condition the dog came to her. Immediately, for instance, like in the next seconds.

“You want a treat?”

Poppy cocked her head at the word ‘treat.’ Then, as all pugs are wont to do—ignore their masters—the dog curled her tail a little tighter in defiance, then marched straight into the bedroom.

“You just proved why I should have insisted that I was allergic to you,” Jane said to no one but herself. She crept slowly down the hall praying the bedroom was empty.

“Well, hello,” a deep male voice drawled. It sounded like an invitation for pure sin, one that a woman could surrender everything to. “How fine you look this evening. Don’t dawdle, my beauty. Let me hold you.”

This was bad.

Poppy had found and was about to interrupt a liaison. Loving whispers escaped followed by a kissing noise.

This was very bad.

Jane closed her eyes desperate to think of something. What was the proper protocol for interrupting a lover’s tryst? Almost afraid to breathe, she forced herself to peek around the corner.

Bother. Poppy was nowhere in sight. But a man, fit and trim, stood with his back to her. Without a waistcoat, his white linen shirt was stretched across his broad back.

Good heavens, he was lovely, and with a look down his trim and muscular form, Jane discovered he was barefoot. She decided then and there she would deny that pampered pug treats for a week over this. Jane didn’t care if it was Christmas.

There was only one thing to do: Announce herself, knock on the door, breakup the interlude, then get her dog and apologize.

She took a deep breath for fortitude. It was now or never. “Excuse me,” she said, knocking on the door gently. “I’ve lost my dog.”

“Oh, you darling girl of mine, where have you been? I love your perfume.” The man laughed, then made another smooching sound.

Obviously, she hadn’t been loud enough. For the love of pugs, she had to get that bloody dog out of there. The thought occurred to her that perhaps Poppy deserved to be in the bedroom with the couple all night. That would teach her she should be loyal to the person who gave her belly rubs.

Jane stepped through the door. “I apologize for interrupting.”

The man turned around in a slow elegant manner.

“My dog…”

In his arms, he held Poppy. Both looked guilty as if they’d been caught in the act. But Jane’s ire immediately melted at the sight of one of Heath’s lopsided grins. “You’re home!”

“Janie! Is that really you?” Holding Poppy tucked under one arm, he rushed to her side and brought her close for a one-armed hug.

At the feel of his arm around her, she breathed deep. He still smelled the same, looked the same, and possessed the same sweet smile and twinkle in his eyes. He bent his head and kissed her...on the cheek.

Just like a sister.

A pang of disappointment deflated her newfound jubilance.

Of course, he would only see her as his best friend’s little sister. She couldn’t expect anything more. She should be delighted he was home, but she’d changed and hoped he saw it too. He’d certainly come home different. Wider, taller, more masculine—simply put, he was more handsome than a man had a right to be.

Jane fought to hide her disappointment at the friendly kiss. “You look well, Heath.”

He blinked slowly, the movement emphasizing his long lashes. With his blond hair and blue eyes, he reminded her of a Christmas tart—sweet and succulent. She glanced at his feet again, and her cheeks heated betraying her thoughts.

“As do you, Janie,” he murmured in a voice that was softer than black velvet. Then he smiled, and the entire room seemed to brighten. “We’re the only ones here, I take it?”
“Robbie is with my parents. I think they must be caught in the storm.”

Heath nodded, still stroking Poppy’s fur.

For the moment, Jane found herself actually jealous of the pug, a dog she had doted on and loved for the last three years. She reached out and stroked the pug’s head. Her fingers tangled with Heath’s, and a spark of something arced between them.

Jane hissed softly and pulled her hand back. Her gaze collided with his.

He studied her as if trying to solve a puzzle. Then his eyes blazed brighter than a yule log. Unable to move, Jane was caught in his heat. He leaned close, and there was little doubt...he was going to kiss her.

This was everything she’d ever dreamed of. It would be the best Christmas ever.

“Thank you for taking such good care of her.” He drew nearer. “I hope she wasn’t too much trouble,” he said softly.

“No.” Jane tilted her mouth to his.

Then he dipped his head and pressed those full, perfect lips to the top of Poppy’s head.

* * * *

Bloody hell. He’d waited three years to kiss Janie, but instead, he’d kissed Poppy. This was the perfect opportunity, but his damned conscience interrupted the moment.

He exhaled. It was just as well. He’d not dishonor Janie by kissing her in his bedroom when she was in her bedclothes, and he was barefoot.

But soon he’d take her in his arms, then kiss her like he’d dreamed about for three years. He didn’t care where they were or who saw them. Besides, it was Christmastide. If anyone deserved a treat for being good, it was Heath.

Jane was still as vibrant as she always had been. When she’d seen his bare feet, she’d blushed a brilliant red. It reminded him of a perfect crimson poppy, his favorite flower. Well, the night was still young, and he had a certain someone special he wanted to spend the evening with.

“What were you doing out in the hallway?” Heath asked, but he couldn’t quit staring at Janie. When he’d first left for the war, she still had the appearance of a young woman about her, but now...she was a beauty...a full-grown woman who mesmerized him.

Jane smiled slightly. “I was going to take Poppy out until she wandered in here. I had a woman in here.”

“Who would I have?” he asked incredulously. “No one except you, dear Janie.”

She tugged the belt of her dressing gown a little tighter, but it gapped at the chest.

His eyes widened. “What are you wearing?”

She grasped the gown about her neck. “Just something old.”

He laughed softly. He knew exactly what it was. “Is that my old bayan?”

She nodded. “I saved it.” Her voice softened. “I thought if I took care of it for you, you’d come home and claim it.”

He wanted to claim it that very instance with her inside of it. “Were you worried for me, Jane?” he murmured. Slowly, he reached out with his forefinger and rubbed her cheek. She leaned into his touch and closed her eyes.

“Yes,” she said.

“I’ll take the dog outside.”

“I’ll come with you,” she answered, then added quickly. “And Poppy.”

Heath took a deep breath and slowly released it. “Good. There’s something I want to show you.”

* * * *

While Heath and the dog were outside, Jane marveled at the main floor. Since she’d arrived, the staff had completely decorated the rooms including the entry and hallway with bright, festive holly and other evergreens. It smelled of Christmas as the scent of delicious fruit breads and cake filled the air.

Thankfully, Poppy did her business quickly.
With a determined step and cheeks reddened by the cold, he walked toward her, the pug trailing behind.

Jane would remember this night for the rest of her life. Even if their futures were never tied together, they had something they shared together.

This special night of Christmas.

“What did you want to show me,” she whispered.

“Look,” Heath pointed above them.

A huge kissing bough decorated with mistletoe, holly, and roses hung directly above them.

Jane’s heart started to accelerate, but she forced herself to lower her gaze to Heath.

His eyes smoldered, and he closed the distance between them. In a slow exaggerated movement, he took her arms. “Jane, I’m going to kiss you,” he whispered.

“Please.” Her voice sounded breathless to her own ears. This was heaven in his arms.

He lowered his lips to hers.

Jane sighed, and he deepened the kiss. He stroked his tongue against hers.

This was everything she’d dreamed of for Christmas. Heath moaned as he brought her closer, and she answered in kind. Their kiss was a conversation where they shared all their gratitude and joy for this special night and each other.

Eventually, Heath pulled away, then cupped her cheeks as he pressed another kiss to her mouth. “Poppy and I had a long conversation.”

That wasn’t what Jane had expected him to say, but the wicked grin on his face convinced her to play along. “Indeed? I’m agog to hear what she has to say.”

Heath trailed his lips up her neck until he nibbled on Jane’s ear. “She says that she doesn’t want to come home with me...unless you do.”

Jane bent her head to allow him better access. “What does that mean?”

“Marry me, Janie.” Heath gazed into her eyes. “Give me the one thing I want for Christmas. Make me the happiest man in all of England.”

Jane stilled. “Really?”

“Truly,” he answered.

Tears came to her eyes, but she couldn’t stop smiling. “Yes. A hundred times, yes. It’s all I wanted for Christmas.”

Heath rested his forehead against hers. “It’s all I wanted, too.” He drew back and captured her gaze. “But there’s several things we’ll have to discuss. When shall we marry? Where? I want it to be as soon as possible.”

Jane nodded her head in agreement. “But there’s one question that has to be answered tonight.” She reached up on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his lips. “Make that two questions. I love you. Do you love me?”

Heath leaned back and laughed. “I think I’ve loved you since you were ten. What’s the second question?”

“Where shall Poppy sleep? With you or me?”

Heath pressed another kiss against his beloved’s lips. Even when they were ninety, he’d never tire of her and her sweet kisses. “Where do you think she’d want to sleep?”

“Poppy also shared something with me. She wants to sleep with both of us.” Jane waggled her eyebrows.

“I always knew she was brilliant. Let’s not keep the poor darling waiting, shall we?”

Jane released a contented sigh as she pressed another kiss to Heath’s lips. “No, we should not. Christmas, snowstorms, kissing boughs, and pampered pugs should not be wasted.”

Her first marriage was an epic fail.

Lady Avalon Warwyk never did love her husband. Arrogant, selfish, and cruel, it’s a blessing when she’s widowed and left to raise her son all by herself. Finally, Avalon can live freely and do the work she loves: helping fallen women become businesswomen. She’s lived these past ten years with no desire to remarry—that is, until Mr. Devan Farris comes to town.

Can he convince her to take another chance at happily ever after?

Devan Farris—charming vicar, reputed rake, and the brother of Avalon’s son’s guardian—is reluctantly sent to town to keep tabs on Avalon and her son. Devan wishes he didn’t have to meddle in her affairs; he’s not one to trod on a woman’s independent nature and keen sense of convictions. But she’ll have nothing to do with a vicar with a wild reputation—even though he’s never given his heart and body to another. If only he could find a way to show Avalon who he really is on the inside—a good, true soul looking for its other half. But how can prove that he wants to love and care for her. . .until death do they part?

**Don’t miss your chance for The Earl’s Christmas Bride, a free Cavensham Heiresses holiday short story with the pre-order of WILD, WILD RAKE. Go to for more details.

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  1. Such a sweet little story, Janna!


  2. Thank you for sharing this holiday story. I enjoyed it. Happy Holidays Janna.
    Carol Luciano

  3. what a lovely cover! thank you for including CA. <3

  4. I enjoyed the story. Merry Christmas!

  5. Sounds like a perfect Christmas present!

  6. wonderful! thanks for sharing.

  7. BRAVA! "...stories where compelling and powerful heroines meet and fall in love with their equally matched heroes..." Doesn't get better than that!

  8. Hi Janna! Merry Christmas! I'm so glad I got to meet you at RWA last summer! Love this sweet story. <3

  9. Can’t wait to read how a reputed rake gets a headstrong and independent woman to fall in love with him.

  10. What a wonderful holiday story! Thanks for sharing.

  11. I can just picture Jane standing outside the room wondering if she needed to go in or not? 😁

  12. Happy Holidays!

    I can just imagine poppy the pug! Pugs are just so adorable, my aunt and uncle have one and she's just a lil Go over vacuum. So lovable though.💗

  13. Awwww I loved this story, thank you so much for sharing it with us, Janna. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!