Published by Anna Campbell on September 20th 2017
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Previously published in the anthology
Under the Kissing Bough.
The Major is home from the wars at last…
Edmund Sherritt, Major Lord Canforth, has devoted eight tumultuous years to fighting Napoleon. Finally Europe is at peace, and he can retire to his estates and the lovely wife he hasn’t seen since their brief, unhappy honeymoon. The innocent girl he loved from the first moment he saw her, but who shied away from him on their wedding night.
The beautiful woman who greets him at Otway Hall on Christmas Eve is no longer the sweet ingénue he remembers. This new and exciting version of his beloved countess is strong, outspoken, and independent, and she’s willing to stand up for what she wants. The question is—does she want the husband who returns to her arms more as a stranger than a spouse?
Now the real battle begins.
Felicity, Lady Canforth, has had eight long years to regret that she sent her husband from a cold marriage bed to face brutal combat, danger and hardship. The only child of elderly parents, Felicity came to marriage innocent and ignorant, and unable to conceal her shock at the sensual power of the earl’s caresses. Before she found the nerve to offer Canforth a more generous welcome, he was called away to war. The Major left behind a countess who was a bride, not a wife; a woman unsure of her husband’s feelings, and too timid to confess how fervently she desires the man she wed.
Fate has granted an older, wiser Felicity a second chance to win her husband’s heart. Now nothing will stop her from claiming victory over the famous war hero. This Christmas, she’ll deploy every ounce of courage, purpose and passion to seize the life and love she’s longed for, ever since Canforth left to serve his country. Whatever it costs, whatever it takes, she’ll lure the dashing Major back into her bed, where she means to show him he’s the only man she wants as her lover—and her love.
After years of yearning and separation, will a Christmas miracle heal the wounds of the past and offer the earl and his bride a future bright with love?
Otway Hall, Shropshire, Christmas Eve 1815
Felicity was pleased to see Canforth moving more easily, now he was out of the cold. Her silly, worried self wanted to fuss and question, help him with the stairs. But she made herself precede him slowly up to the great hall, so he wouldn’t be too self-conscious about his limping progress. “Shall we go into the drawing room? Joe lights a fire in there each evening.”
When Canforth didn’t answer, Felicity glanced back. He leaned on the doorway cut through the carved screen, and if she didn’t know better, she’d imagine him unchanged from the man she’d married. The gathering dusk hid that vicious scar, and his casual posture belied the way he favored his leg.
His expression wasn’t casual at all. Avidly his eyes took in every detail of this vast room, the heart of the medieval building around which the rest of the manor had grown. She read such a range of powerful reactions in his face. Love. Sadness. Joy. Relief. Curiosity.
“It’s just the same,” he said in disbelief.
“Of course it is.” Poignant emotion threatened to choke her once more. She’d better gain control of herself soon, or abandon any pretense that she and Canforth shared a dispassionate marriage.
“It’s mad, I know.” He paused, and she knew he battled for composure. “But through all the bloodshed and destruction, I’d think back to this house as a site of perfect happiness, until I was convinced it couldn’t possibly be as I recalled it.”
His intense tone made Digby whine and bump his grizzled head against his master’s hip. Canforth laid one elegant, scarred hand on the dog’s neck and looked around. “You’ve even put up the kissing bough. Did you guess that I was coming home?”
Stupidly Felicity blushed. During her honeymoon, kisses had been infrequent. In fact, she and Canforth hadn’t acted much like a honeymoon couple at all. He’d treated her with respect and kindness. And she, so young and inexperienced, hadn’t known how to ask for more. Especially once she reached the conclusion that Canforth had no argument with a temperate marriage.
“I held a party for the staff before I sent them off to their families for Christmas.”
He cocked an eyebrow at her. “So did you kiss a handsome footman or two?”
She affected an airy tone. “Oh, these days, the grooms are prettier than the footmen.”
He laughed and stepped fully into the room, Digby at his side. “You’re warning me about the competition?” He stopped under the colorful ball suspended from the ceiling. “Shall we, wife?”
Puzzled she looked at him. “Shall we what?”
He pointed up at the woven ribbons and mistletoe and holly. “After nearly eight years, a kiss doesn’t seem too much to ask.”
Heavens, she hadn’t blushed this much since she was a new bride. “You want to kiss me?” she asked shakily.
He rolled his eyes. “Flick, you’re my wife, and it’s been a long, cold road since last I saw your pretty face. For charity’s sake, give me a kiss. On my honor, I’ll make sure it doesn’t hurt.”
That was the second time he’d called her pretty. Despite telling herself it meant nothing, warmth flooded her veins. “I’m sadly out of practice.”
“I should hope so.” He stretched out his hand. “But I think we’ll manage the basics.”
Are you one of those people who spend all year looking forward to the Holidays and have your decorations up at least a month in advance? Are you someone who does it all at the last minute? Or it is all bah humbug, hurry on with the new year for you? Interested parties (well, Anna, and us here at Buried Under Romance) want to know!
Everyone who comments goes into the draw to win a Kindle download of Mistletoe and the Major (no geographical restrictions).