This is a romantic little Christmas short that I wrote a few years ago. I was part of a live Facebook event for a group of romance writers, promoting what was then ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT (which was later re-released as PLAYING THE ANGLES and is the first of the Coventina Circle series).
I wanted to have a giveaway for the readers who participated in the event. A few days before, I sat down and wrote this little Christmas romance. I don’t often write straight-up romance – it’s one of the hardest styles to get right, especially with a hint of comedy in it. But I stayed up late for several nights, got it up on Smashwords, and created a coupon so that all the participants could download it for free. Once the participants were done downloading, and it was up there for less than a dollar, it’s continued steady sales over the years, and people enjoy it. So I thought I would re-release it on a broader platform.
The cover image is in the public domain. Much as I’ve played with other cover images over the years, I love this one, and decided to keep it, when I decided to re-release the short through other channels this year, taking it off Smashwords.
The piece has gone through some tweaking, and I added an extra scene to up the conflict. But Edwina’s determination and kindness, and Theobold’s strength and admiration for those qualities remain.
This is a novelette, just under 10,000 words, and I hope you enjoy it. Some of the buy links are live now, and more will be added. You can always visit the Stories page on my blog for the most complete list of links. It is also categorized as one of the Delectable Digital Delights.
When a dark, mysterious stranger arrives on Edwina’s snowy doorstep on Christmas Eve, is he the answer to saving her beloved family home, or another threat?
Edwina Lockesley is desperate to save her family home from a conniving neighbor who claims the house –and her — in payment for a debt. When Theobold Vertingras shows up on the doorstep in a Christmas Eve blizzard, will he help Edwina coax the hall’s ghost to give up her secrets in order to save the manor? Or is Theobold there to complicate matters even more — especially since Edwina finds him so attractive?
“Oh, bother, must you interrupt just as the ghost is about to reveal her secrets?” Edwina Lockesley swung the large, carved wooden door open and glared at the poor soul on the doorstep, nearly paralyzed by the howling winter storm.
“Ah, I, well–“
He was tall, and, Edwina supposed, rather good-looking if you liked the sort. He must have topped six feet tall, with dark hair and dark eyes. The planes of his face were sharp, and his nose a bit too long for traditional handsomeness. The snow fell around him in large flakes, landing on his cloak and not even melting. “You’re not a ghost yourself, are you, sir?” She stared at him with keen interest. If they’d conjured up a completely different ghost, well, it would be a completely different story.
“I will be, my lady, if I don’t get out of this storm soon.”
“It wouldn’t be very Christmas-like if I left you out on the snow on Christmas Eve, now, would it?” Edwina continued. “I suppose you have a horse?” She peered past him. “Oh, a lovely one at that. Let me just slip into my boots and fling on a cloak. I’ll take you round to the stable.”
Several cats fled up the stairs. A trio of dogs of undetermined parentage heaved themselves to their feet. “No, dears,” she told them in a gentle, firm voice. “You stay here. It’s too cold for you outside.” She looked at the man on her doorstep. “I hope you don’t mind dogs and cats. We have rather a lot of them. Abandoned animals tend to find their way here.”
“Don’t you have a groom–“
“Mrs. Fengest! Unlock the door to the stable passageway so we don’t have to go all the way round when we come back from the stables, will you? There’s a dear.” As Edwina spoke, she slipped into a pair of a man’s lined boots far too big for her. She grabbed a cloak and some gloves from pegs on the wall. “Warm up some supper and get a room ready, please. We’ve got an unexpected guest.” She gave the man before her a bright smile. “Now, then, let’s get started. Right this way.”
She trudged past him, to where the large, coal-black horse stomped and complained in the drifting snow. “He’s lovely. We’ll make sure he’s well-fed and rested. We’ve got plenty of supplies put by, so even if you’re stuck here for a few days, all will be well.” She petted his nose and he nuzzled her. “You’re a handsome one, aren’t you?” she crooned. She took his reins and led him around the side of the house, the man stomping behind her.
“Don’t you want to know who I am?” he demanded, as they headed for the stable block, attached to the house by an enclosed stone passage.
“It would be nice to have a name and not just refer to you as ‘man’, ” Edwina agreed. “Although I warn you, Miss Petal may do so anyway. My goodness, the storm’s certainly picked up. We haven’t seen one this bad in quite a long time. Makes sense; after all, it is winter.”
“My name is Theobold Vertingras.”
He looked at her as though he expected her to recognize the name. Edwina didn’t care if she should or not. “You are welcome here, Mr. Vertingras, to wait out the storm. We don’t stand much on ceremony or formality, and you will have to adjust. But we do offer hospitality. I am Edwina Lockesley.”
“Daughter of Edmund?”
“And of Tabitha. Niece of Reginald. We could go back through all the begetting, but it would be quite boring.”
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