Published by Harlequin Historical on November 1st, 2018
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
A convenient arrangement: Three festive Regency romances!
In The Captain’s Christmas Journey by Carla Kelly, Captain Everard is escorting Verity to her governess job—and for propriety’s sake that means a convenient engagement!
In Louise Allen’s The Viscount’s Yuletide Betrothal, Eleanor advertises for a “suitable” gentleman to pose as her betrothed over Christmas.
And in Laurie Benson’s novella, Juliet’s One Night Under the Mistletoe leads to a marriage of convenience with handsome former love Lord Montague…
ONE NIGHT UNDER THE MISTLETOE by Laurie Benson
Turning to face Juliet, Monty removed the ring from his finger and pushed aside his thoughts of it rolling across the drawing-room floor. Suddenly, she shoved her hand behind her back and leaned close to his ear.
‘We need to talk,’ she whispered to him.
‘Yes, now,’ she whispered back impatiently. ‘Before you put that ring on my finger, there is something we need to discuss.’
He stepped back and shifted his glance between her and the expectant vicar. ‘Lady Juliet and I will be but a moment,’ he said to the man. Ignoring the questioning looks from those around them, he took Juliet by the hand and led her out into the corridor, closing the door behind him.
She wrapped her arms around her waist and began pacing in front of him. He waited for her to stop, wondering what she could possibly have to say to him now that she couldn’t have said to him in the last few days. Finally, she stopped in front of him.
‘I can’t do this to you. I thought I could, but I can’t.’
‘What are you doing exactly?’
‘Marrying you, of course.’
‘Of course.’ He rubbed his lips to prevent himself from uttering the curse that was about to come out. ‘Juliet, you were the one who said in your letter to me that aside from arranging where we would live and your financial settlement, there was nothing we could say to one another that we had not already said. I respected your wishes. And now you want to talk?’
‘Do you love her?’
It took a moment for his brain to process her question. ‘Love who?’
‘Miss Fellsworth? Why on earth do you think I love Miss Fellsworth?’
‘There had been talk about the two of you at the ball.’
‘Do you always believe the gossip you hear?’
‘You were going to meet with her in the library. You were having an assignation with her.’
‘For a kiss. I was to meet her that night for a kiss. Just because I wanted to kiss her does not mean I am in love with her.’
She pushed him.
‘What was that for?’
‘I am well aware you kiss women you do not love. You do not have to remind me of that!’
Would there ever be a time that Juliet would let his actions of the past remain there? Her mere presence was a constant reminder of how much he had hurt her. It wasn’t something he was proud of. It wasn’t something he had ever wanted to do. While he had fancied himself in love with her for a few days, he had come to realise it was just heated passion for a woman he was very fond of. Nothing more. Logic told him that he barely knew her.
‘Juliet, what is it you are trying to say to me that couldn’t wait until after we recited our vows?’
‘I can’t marry you. I won’t be responsible for coming between you and Miss Fellsworth. I know Society dictates that we marry, but I won’t do it if you are in love with her.’ She put her hand on her stomach and seemed to be trying to steady her breathing.
‘Do you need to sit? We could find another chair for you,’ he said, glancing around the corridor.
‘I do not need to sit down. I need you to go in there and tell the vicar we will not be getting married while I go and lie down…in my room…if I can find it in this massive house your family calls a cottage.’
Rubbing her brow, she turned to leave him, but he pulled her back gently by the arm. ‘I am not in love with Miss Fellsworth,’ he said in a reassuring tone.
Her amber-coloured eyes searched his. It was evident when she realised that he was telling her the truth because her expression softened. ‘Are you certain you have no wish to marry Miss Fellsworth?’
They stared at one another, both unsure what to do next. They were alone in the corridor, standing close enough to one another that he could smell her faint lavender scent. He had always wanted to get her into bed to find out if that scent originated from her skin or her clothes.
Thinking of her in bed caused his gaze to drop to her lips and he remembered that time he had kissed her…the only time. No other kiss had compared to the one they shared that day. And he had made it his quest to kiss as many women as it took to find someone who could give him that same experience. Not one of those other kisses ever came close.
Just as he considered kissing her once more, she took a step back. The rise and fall of her chest let him know she had felt that pull that had always been between them, as well. She knew he had wanted to kiss her and, for the briefest of moments, he thought she might have wanted him to.
‘I still do not like you or forgive you for what you did.’ She crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes.
‘Oh, very well, come along, Monty, if we have to get married, we might as well do it now.’
There was a time that he thought the beautiful creature before him, in the white-muslin gown with the blue-satin ribbon under her breasts, was the most romantic person he knew.
He didn’t think that any more.