On today’s Casa for the Holiday‘s blog stop, the Sourcebooks Casablanca Christmas romance authors are sharing a cute holiday scene from their latest releases… enjoy!
(The Christmas tree is decorated and it’s time to put the angel on the top.)
When every one of the ornaments was dangling from a tree branch, Henry stood and cocked his head to one side. “It’s time to put the top up there. Josh is the youngest, so he gets to do it.”
“Good grief! He’s two months old and he just learned to smile. There’s no way he can put the top on the tree,” Natalie said.
“Sure he can if we help him. Lucas, you hold this and I’ll hold the baby up there. Grady, you got the camera?”
“Right here,” Grady said.
Lucas reached up and set the angel on top of the tree and Jack braced Joshua with one hand under his bottom and one at his back. “Right now, snap it while he’s got a hold of one of her wings.”
“He thinks it’s edible.” Henry laughed.
“If he wants to slobber on it, that’s just fine. Angels love babies as much as we do,” Grady chuckled.
They went to bed and settled down, kissing and snuggling when they heard something on the roof.
Bjornolf slipped on a pair of boxers and was nearly into his jeans when he heard a “Ho-ho-ho!” from the rooftop. He looked at Anna, and she started laughing. “That’s Nathan and his reindeer. I mean, Santa and his reindeer.”
Bjornolf had to look anyway. The kids weren’t in the guestroom, and he saw Nathan and a she-wolf walking across the snow-covered roof. On the patio out back, he saw angel figures made in the snow. He smiled, then went back inside, not recalling ever having done anything so crazy in his life. Well, maybe he had.
“You were right, Anna.” Bjornolf crawled back into bed.
“Did you put out cookies and milk for Santa, and carrots for his reindeer?”
Bjornolf groaned, shook his head, got back out of bed, put on his boxers, and left the bedroom.
I love this scene where my heroine nearly gets caught with her pants down by the local pastor and his wife!
“I was wondering if you knew where Jake was,” Pastor Lancaster stepped forward.
“No,” Raine answered hastily—maybe too hastily judging from the look Mrs. Lancaster shot her way. “I mean, I haven’t seen him.”
“Oh,” Pastor Lancaster rubbed his chin and glanced behind him. “His truck is parked in front of the main house.”
Raine shrugged. “He’s probably inside working on something?”
“We knocked but there was no answer.”
“Hmmm,” her teeth were now knocking against each other so badly that Raine had to take a moment and force herself to speak. “He’s probably got his IPod on and can’t hear you. I can give him a message when I see him later if you like.”
“No, that’s fine, dear,” Pastor Lancaster smiled. “I just wanted to say hello and ask him what his plans for the house are. Just an old man being nosy.”
“I’m sorry I can’t help you there.”
“We’d best leave you then. See you at the parade tonight?” Mrs. Lancaster said hopefully.
“For sure, I wouldn’t miss it.”
Just then Gibson began to bark up a storm and Raine moved out of the way so the little monster could get outside, no doubt needing to make a nature run. The puppy flew past and skidded to a halt at Pastor Lancaster’s feet, his joy at finding a new set of leather boots to nip and bark at making the puppy so excited his tail erupted in a blur of wagging and he dropped something on the ground, right next to the Pastor’s feet.
Something blue. And cotton.
Raine’s face turned as red as Santa’s suit when she realized what it was.
“Sorry, let me,” she said and would have walked across fire to retrieve the item, except Mrs. Lancaster bent over and grabbed it. She gazed down at it for a few moments and then turned to Raine, the blue cotton garment in her hands, a slight smile on her face.
“These must belong to you?”
Raine gazed down at Jake’s boxers and wanted to die. She wanted a hole to open up beneath her and fall all the way to China. She was pretty sure the sight of Mrs. Lancaster in all her red and black checkered glory holding up Jake’s boxers was going to be a funny memory someday. Maybe.
But right now? She was horrified and hoped like hell they weren’t soaked in the sex fumes that were surely pouring out of the house and choking them both.
“Thanks, yes, they’re,” she mumbled. “They’re like a new style of…”
“It’s okay, my dear.” Mrs. Lancaster couldn’t hide her giggles anymore. “I’m sure they look wonderful on you”
She turned abruptly and nudged her husband. “We should go, Frank.”
The pastor nodded and stepped back. “I look forward to seeing you tonight, Raine.”
Raine nodded and watched as they made their way down the path. She heard Pastor Lancaster tell his wife they should try the main house again—that maybe this time Jake would hear them.
And she cringed when she heard Mrs. Lancaster laugh softly and answer, “I don’t think he’s at the main house but we can try if you want to.”
Portrait artist Elijah Harrison, Lord Bernward, has accepted commissions from the Windham family as the Christmas holidays draw near. While the Windham women and children get into the holiday spirit, the menfolk assemble in Elijah’s studio, ostensibly to comfort Elijah when he gets word he’ll not be accepted into the prestigious Royal Academy. In this friendly company, Elijah realizes that the Academy might not be the society where he most wants to spend his time…
The door to Elijah’s make shift studio opened, and the Baron Sindal slipped through, closing it quickly behind him. “I thought it might be safe in here. It’s Bedlam downstairs—children, dogs, His Grace producing sweets for the little ones at every turn, mistletoe everywhere. I’ve brought fortification.”
He held up a bottle as if it were the price of admission to the studio.
“Come join us,” Kesmore said. “Bernward here is not going to get into the Academy, and, of course, true love is to blame. He wants cheering up.”
Sindal pulled up a hassock and uncorked the bottle. “What academy?”
The Earl of Hazelton came next, though how such a big man moved without making a sound was a mystery. He too brought fortification and had dragooned a passing footman into supplying more of same at regular intervals, as well as quantities of sweet breads with butter.
The cat made the round of various laps; the bottles made the rounds. Stories of Christmases past came out, and Elijah even offered a few of his own—cricket in the portrait gallery, freezing his arse off with two of his brothers to see if the animals spoke at midnight on Christmas Eve, hitting his granddame with a snowball by accident and having to visit her as penance thereafter.
“Bet she spoiled you rotten,” Hazelton groused. “Old women know best how to spoil a little fellow. My son’s nurse is eighty if she’s a day.”
Sindal took exception. “She is not. She merely looks eighty so she’ll be safe from you.”
“I’ll have you know…” Hazelton began, while Elijah’s attention wandered to his brothers’ letters. His mother’s revelations about the Academy politics was disturbing, because Fotheringale had no motivation for giving up his various grudges and allowing Elijah to gain membership. Artistic insecurity had a prodigious memory, one that typically magnified slights and forgot praise.
Hazleton left off defending his manly honor, or his eyesight, or something. “Bernward’s brooding. Pass him the bottle.”
Kesmore passed Elijah the cat instead. Timothy’s claws went to work directly on Elijah’s thigh. “Come, young man. Tell us what afflicts you, and we’ll ridicule you for it accordingly.”
How inchoate inebriation had added years to Kesmore’s standing, Elijah did not know. “My brothers miss me.”
Looks were exchanged all around, and then the door opened. Jenny’s brother, St. Just, slid through. “I’ve brought more refugees. The rioting downstairs beggars description. My own dear wife kissed the butler and was sizing up the senior footmen when I escaped.”
St. Just opened the door widely enough that two more men could scurry in behind him. They both had what Elijah was coming to think of as Windham chins—a trait from the sire’s line. They had green eyes, and those green eyes looked harried if not haunted.
Kesmore gestured with the bottle. “Bernward, some introductions: The mean-looking one is St. Just. Around his mama we call him Rosecroft. The prissy one is Lord Valentine, and the sniffy one is Westhaven. Cowards, the lot of them. Afraid of a few shrieking children, a bowl of wassail, and some holiday decorations.”
“I don’t see you down there,” Westhaven groused, taking a place on the raised hearth and looking, indeed, sniffy about it.
“I have three children, and I am married to Louisa,” Kesmore said. smiling fatuously “And don’t be fooled, Bernward. St. Just is a dear, Lord Valentine more stubborn than the other two put together, and Westhaven only looks sniffy when he’s not beholding his countess. I say this with the authority of a man who loves them sincerely and is only a bit the worse for drink.”
Lord Valentine took the place beside Kesmore, St. Just simply sat on the floor.
“Your brothers might miss you, Bernward,” Sindal said, “but we’ve a few brothers to spare. In the spirit of holiday generosity, we’ll lend them to you. You may have Westhaven here on indefinite loan, for starters.”
By the time they’d gotten around to wondering how His Grace not merely endured but thrived on the holiday mayhem, Elijah had reached an insight that did not provide even as much comfort as the four-ton cat contentedly shredding his breeches.
His sisters missed him, and his mother was threatening essentially to cut him off if he remained “as stubborn as his father.” She might make good on her threats, though Elijah could ambush her in Town and wear her down over the next few years. That prospect was daunting, much like facing the melee below stairs daunted these happy, tipsy men who were delighted to spend time with one another.
Elijah’s brothers missed him too. He’d known that.
What he hadn’t known was how badly he missed his family—the entire lot of them—and how difficult it would be to ever gain entrance to the Academy. The latter realization didn’t disturb him nearly as much as it ought to, while the former disturbed him far more than it should have.
To enter to win a prize pack of all 4 of these Christmas authors’ novels, tell us in the comments what book you are planning to read this holiday season! This contest is open internationally.
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