Monday, November 17, 2008

Marry Christmas - Jane Goodger

Marry Christmas
A Writers Vineyard Holiday Treat

Rand stood on the terrace next to Edward pretending to enjoy with whimsy of the Japanese lanterns lit so prettily around the Astor’s lawn, but his eyes were pinned to a single female who stood as still as a statue staring toward a large European Beech tree.

“You don’t think the girl is stupid enough to plan an assignation,” Edward said.

“I do completely.”

Edward let out a sigh. “What do you plan to do about it?”

“I’m not certain,” Rand said with feigned calm. He wasn’t certain because at that moment, the rage coursing through him made all thought incoherent. It was startling and completely unexpected this strange possessiveness he felt toward the girl. He simply could not believe she was having a tryst beneath his very nose. “I would like you to go meet Miss Pierce and lure her away, if you could. It shouldn’t be difficult as she seemed to be quite taken with you.”

“Rand.” Edward said his name with a warning tone.

“Don’t worry. I’m not going to kill the girl. Strangle a bit, perhaps.” Edward laughed until he realized Rand was not smiling.

“You are joking, are you not?”

“I wish I wasn’t. I wish I were the sort of person who was capable of violence because right now I feel violent.”

Edward stared at his friend. “Don’t tell me you’re in love with her,” he said aghast.

“Good God, no. But she is my intended, or rather she will be. And right about now I feel as if I’m being cuckolded.”

Edward nodded, slightly relieved. “I’ll see to Miss Pierce.”

Rand watched as Edward spun his magic. Though it was clear even from a distance that the girl was hesitant to leave her friend, it was also just as clear she couldn’t come up with a valid explanation to be standing in the middle of the lawn alone. When the two reached the stone terrace, she gave him a startled look as he nodded to her politely.

“Your Grace,” she said, forcing Edward to stop. “Why don’t you come in and have some refreshments with Lord Hollings and I? I absolutely adore the little lemon cakes Mrs. Astor serves each summer. You must try them.” Even for someone as cheerful as Maggie, the invitation seemed a bit forced.

“Thank you, but no. I believe I need some more fresh air. It’s rather stifling in there, don’t you agree? You must, else you would not have spent so much time enjoying the night air. Alone.”

Miss Pierce gave him a tight smile, and Edward gave him a look of warning, before the two disappeared into the house. When he turned around, he saw a slight movement near the tree and decided to take a little stroll. One never knew who one might meet, after all.

“Miss Cummings. Is that you?”

She jerked her head up and took an extraordinarily short time to compose herself before walking toward him. From the tree.

“Would you care to stroll with me?” he asked.

“Actually, I’m getting a bit chilled and was going back inside,” she said and continued walking by him toward the house. He grabbed her arm firmly, ignoring her small cry of outrage, and steered her away from the house. Some girls might have screamed, but Elizabeth it seemed had been well-school on the art of not creating a scene.

“I’m so glad you’ve decided to join me.” He looked down at her and she stared straight ahead. She was such a stalwart little thing, he nearly smiled.

“We had a beech tree like that in our garden growing up. Much larger, though. It was a wonderful place to hide. I imagine they were imported from Europe.”

“I believe so,” she said, her voice sounding strange.

“A perfect place for a tryst.”

She stiffened next to him. “I wouldn’t know.”

“Wouldn’t you,” he said blandly.

“I want to go back inside now.”

“That is too bad.”

Her arm felt slim beneath his hand and he thought he felt the slightest trembling. Good. He wanted her afraid at this moment, he wanted her to feel as much discomfort has he had when he realized she was beneath that damned tree with Henry Ellsworth.

Finally, they reached the end of the lawn and stopped. She crossed her arms in front of her as if she were the affronted one.

“I do not want you seeing him again,” he said, before he even realized what he was going to say.

“I don’t know what you mean.” Ah, she was getting her fire back. He smiled at her, which only made her frown more fiercely.

“Henry Ellsworth. The man you think you love.”

She gasped and his smile widened.

“You are rude,” she said. “How dare you imply…” She stopped and let out a breath, and he watched as myriad emotions crossed her features. Then, lifting her chin, the affect of which was ruined by the slight quivering there, she said, “Yes, we love each other. And you are keeping us apart.”

“You cannot love him. You cannot love anyone you have not been with for more than ten minutes at a time. I am always amazed how quickly foolish girls fall in love.”

“I am not foolish and I am not girl. You cannot know what is in my heart, or his.”

He stepped to her, their bodies only inches apart. They were so close, he could feel her panicked breath, coming out in short puffs, hitting his throat. “Have you been kissed?”

His questioned seemed to startle her. “I don’t know how you mean.”

“Tonight. Have you been kissed,” he ground out.

“Henry would never take such liberties. He is a gentleman,” she said, lifting her head imperiously.

The relief he felt was staggering, and extremely disconcerting. “I’m very glad to hear it,” he said. “Because I daresay I wouldn’t want my mouth touching yours if you had.”

This has been an excerpt from Marry Christmas
Jane Goodger worked as a journalist for twelve years before switching to the happily-ever-after world of romances. Jane lives in New England with her husband, three children, a small dog and a cat. In addition to writing, Jane also works as an elementary school teacher.
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