Adrienne Basso's THE CHRISTMAS HEIRESS
Adrienne Basso's THE CHRISTMAS HEIRESS
"In her latest sinfully sensual historical, Basso neatly blends beautifully nuanced characters with a plot rich in Christmas cheer."—Booklist
THE CHRISTMAS HEIRESS
Publisher: Zebra Books
Publication Date: October 1, 2006 (ebook)
Publication Date: October 1, 2006 (mass market paperback)
A Season To Remember . . .
For Charlotte Aldridge, Christmas's arrival means anything but warmth and cheer. Only a few holidays ago, she fell in love with handsome Edward Barringer, the peer both their families were hoping she would marry. But Edward not only turned his back on his noble name, he also turned his back on Charlotte. Rejected and heartbroken, she made a new life for herself and vowed to put the past behind her. But now Edward has returned to the English countryside for the holidays. And Charlotte is determined to do whatever it takes to keep her heart forever out of harm's way . . .
A Love To Reclaim . . .
Edward Barringer can't believe it . . . the pretty-but-frivolous Charlotte has grown into a fascinating woman. He never meant to break her heart all those years ago, but he was determined to earn his fortune rather than marry it. But now, he's become completely captivated by the alluring and passionate young woman Charlotte has become. And he's willing to risk all he has to prove the love between them is for now--and all the seasons to come. ..
The fingers inside Charlotte's gloves tingled from the cold, her cheeks and nose felt tight and nearly numb, yet she could not remember the last time she had had so much fun out of doors. The sun had disappeared and the sky had darkened considerably, making her wonder if it truly would snow, as everyone had hoped.
Lord Edward seemed unaware that she was behind him. Fearing she might get separated, Charlotte kept her eyes pinned to the many capes of his dark green greatcoat and did her best to keep up with his long strides. But it was difficult.
She was very thankful indeed when he suddenly stopped, though she nearly plowed into his broad back.
"Miss Aldridge! How thoughtless of me. You should have yelled at me to slacken my pace."
He put out his arms to steady her and Charlotte grasped them, even though her balance was not threatened.
"Ladies do not yell, Lord Edward," Charlotte said in a steady voice. "Besides, I am unsure you would have heard me if I had been so vulgar as to screech. Your mind is exclusively focused upon the task at hand. Apparently, you are taking this lighthearted competition rather seriously."
He shrugged. "'Tis the way of men."
"And small boys."
He had the grace to smile. Charlotte decided she liked the way his eyes sparkled with amusement and crinkled in the corners. It was very attractive.
"Take my hand," he commanded. "I do not want to lose you."
"I would never allow that to happen, sir," Charlotte replied with a flirty smile as she set her hand in his outstretched one.
He seemed different. Gone was his customary quiet dignity, gone was the cautious attitude she remembered so well when he was a boy. His eyes were bright with animation, his face flushed from the cold and exercise, his manner commanding and determined. He looked virile and handsome and incredibly appealing. Winter, and challenges, suited him.
Charlotte wondered briefly if this change had anything to do with the sips of brandy she had seen him taking from his silver flask, but she quickly discarded the notion. It was the spirit of the competition that brought out the transformation.
They walked past a thicket of holly bushes and came to a cluster of stately oak trees. Charlotte tipped her head back to scan the upper branches, unsure if she would be able to see any mistletoe from this great distance. She turned to ask Lord Edward's opinion and discovered he was not looking up into the tree. He was staring at her.
"You are an extremely lovely woman, Miss Aldridge," he said in a surprised tone, as though he had just realized it.
She snapped her eyes up to his and caught her breath. He took a step closer and her eyes widened. Then he raised the hand he still held in his own up to his mouth and pressed his lips against the tips of her gloved fingers. His amber-gold eyes were sharp beneath the lazy lids. She gazed into them and then reached over and removed her glove so he could repeat the gesture on her bare flesh. He willingly complied.
Charlotte sighed, feeling the delicate press of his lips all the way to her toes. Parts of her body that had been chilled in the cold winter air were now heating with warmth. It was the most romantic moment of her life and she felt herself slowly slipping toward a host of new and wonderful sensations.
Was this how seduction felt? It seemed as if the functions of her mind were now dominated by the feeling coursing though her body. Delightful, exciting, forbidden feelings. And if she leaned forward just a bit...
"Oh, look," she whispered in a breathy tone. "You have found the mistletoe. We are standing beneath it."
He gazed skyward for the briefest instant. "So we are." He laughed. The deep, rich baritone of mirth sent a shiver of anticipation down Charlotte's spine.
"That means you must kiss me," she demanded.
"And so I shall."
He spun her behind the large oak tree. Charlotte's back met the rough solid tree trunk the same moment Lord Edward's lips descended upon hers.
Warmth invaded every fiber of her being. At first he kissed her with playful bites and nips. She tried to imitate his actions, and then his hands adjusted the angle of her head, holding her in place. The pressure of his mouth increased as the tip of his tongue played with hers.
Charlotte struggled to control her breathing. His lips were hot and restless, a temptation she was powerless to resist. Her knees began to weaken, yet she kissed him back, willingly allowing the wondrous sensations to wash over her.
While attending a house party at Farmington Manor, Charlotte Aldridge shares a kiss under the mistletoe with Edward Barringer. Thinking Edward is in love with her, Charlotte waits for his proposal, only to find that Edward's plans do not include marrying a spoiled heiress. Six years later Charlotte finds herself celebrating Christmas again at Farmington Manor, not expecting that Edward would also be there. In her latest sinfully sensual historical, Basso neatly blends beautifully nuanced characters with a plot rich in Christmas cheer.—John Charles, Booklist Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved