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Lady Isabella Porter and Lord Gerard Malden have known each other since they were children. Isabella thinks of Gerard as someone who teased her unmercifully and made her feel inadequate as a young girl. But Gerard has loved Isabella for many years.
A sudden, fierce snowstorm and misplaced notes informing both of a change of plan mean Isabella and Gerard are forced to spend the Christmas holidays together in very unusual circumstances.
Gerard realizes he must use the time he's been given with Isabella to change the opinions she formed as a girl so she may look upon him with favor and, if he is fortunate, lasting affection.
Page Count: 72
Word Count: 17860
Early December, 1813
“Do you know how delighted I would be if you and Gerard were to fall in love and get married?”
“What?” Lady Isabella Porter’s hand shook, and she spilled some of her beverage. How strange! Her father mentioned something similar to her not long ago. She was presently having tea in the drawing room of her childhood friend’s home in London, and the subject came up once again. She slowly lowered her cup to a nearby table and tried to act nonchalant. “Where did such a farfetched and laughable idea come from?”
“It’s hardly an impossible scheme. My brother is very handsome, and you are beautiful. We have all grown up together; you know each other very well.” Julia patted her rounded belly, swollen with child. She was the only daughter of the Earl and Countess Foster and had fallen in love and married Viscount Clayton in a lavish ceremony a little over a year ago just before Isabella’s father passed away.
Isabella sighed with exasperation. Perhaps the impending birth of her first baby was making her friend unusually sentimental. “Exactly right. I’m very aware of all your brother’s worst habits and traits. Obviously, I would never consider marrying him.”
Julia shook her head and her blonde curls bounced jauntily. “You know you exaggerate. He can be an amusing companion. You remember all the laughs we had when we were young.”
She glanced down at her hands that were clasped tightly together in her lap before looking up to answer. “Yes, I do. But you and your brother were doing most of the laughing because both of you were making fun of me.”
Her friend looked smug. “Well, you have to admit you were an easy target. You were so trusting. You believed almost everything we said.”
She snorted indelicately. “Until I got older and wiser. I’ll never forgive him for getting me stuck in that tree.”
Julia giggled. “You always had a weakness for helpless animals! You were determined to rescue that cat.”
“I didn’t realize how high up I was until I looked down. That was when my limbs seemed to freeze up, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to move from that spot.” Isabella frowned as she remembered the incident.
“But my brother was close by ready to save you even though you told him you didn’t need his help.” Julia struggled to rise from the sofa and abruptly sat back down. “Hand me one of those lemon cakes. I’m getting lazy as this baby grows larger inside me.”
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