Three Christmas wishes…
1. A new life in the country:
It's taken all of Louise Thornton's courage to start again with her young son. This will be a different life, one away from the paparazzi - and her cheating celebrity husband!
2. Someone to help decorate the Christmas tree:
Louise is determined to make this Christmas perfect for her son. But it's not until she meets meltingly attractive landscape architect Ben Oliver that she starts to sparkle again.
3. A proposal under the mistletoe?
Single dad Ben puts his daughter first. But when he catches Louise under the mistletoe, Ben realises only he can make Louise's wishes come true…
Shortlisted for the Booksellers' Best Award - Traditional Romance Category
Romantic Times (4½ stars)
"A heartwarming romance about new beginnings, second chances and starting afresh, Christmas Wishes, Mistletoe Kisses is the perfect novel to curl up with on a cold autumn's night in front of the fire. Fiona Harper never fails to deliver stunning romantic novels which you devour in a single sitting and Christmas Wishes, Mistletoe Kisses is certainly no exception!"
Pink Heart Society Reviews
Everyone has their own family Christmas traditions, don't they? I discovered that all-important fact when I got married. In my family we used to rush downstairs on Christmas morning and tear open our presents before breakfast. Imagine the sheer self-restraint I had to show when I discovered that my husband's family opened theirs after Christmas dinner, and only when all the washing-up was done and everyone had a cup of tea in their hands. How I managed to hold out that first year, I'll never know.
Anyway, my husband and I have managed to combine our families' different Christmas cultures and have come up with a few tradtitions of our own too. One thing I absolutely cannot be without on Christmas Day is bread sauce! It sounds odd, but it's a tradtional English accompaniment to roast turkey, and so easy to make!
First, fill a pan with a pint of milk. Stud an onion with three cloves and place in the milk, along with a bay leaf. Bring the milk to the boil, then remove from the heat. Discard the onion and the bay leaf, add four ounces of white breadcrumbs to the milk and season. Cook for five minutes, stirring, until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in one ounce of butter and four tablespoons of single cream. Spoon into a serving dish, sprinkle with grated nutmeg and, voila, you have a little bit of heaven to go with your Christmas lunch. Once you've tried it, you'll never go back - I promise!
Christmas blessings and a Happy New Year,
Louise's eyelids flickered. Her head was filled with crackling fires, spiced wine and silver boxes wrapped with ribbons. She yawned and stretched one arm. That was the best night's sleep she'd had since...
She wasn't alone.
Foggily, she tried to make decipher what her senses were telling her. There was a warm body wrapped around her, breathing rhythmically... a strange bed... and a Christmas tree in her room?
The Christmas tree!
Her eyelids pinged the rest of the way open and, suddenly, she was very much awake. That warm body tangled with hers belonged to Ben Oliver. She didn't dare move, just in case it was all just another delicious dream.
Slowly, she made herself relaxed back against him. He mumbled something in his sleep—nonsense—and hugged her tighter. She smiled.
This is what contentment felt like. She'd forgotten its taste, its flavour.
Her eyes scanned the room once again, this time taking in the details. The fire was out, as were quite a few of the candles, but even with the flickering yellow glow from the few that were left, there was an odd silvery-blue light bathing the room.
Mind you, she'd never been in the boathouse this early in the morning before and she had no idea what time it was. Perhaps this was the colour of dawn down here so close to the river.
No, that wasn't it. Gut instinct told to go and look out of the window. She dropped one leg over the edge of the day bed and started to move, but Ben grumbled again and pulled her back, nuzzling into the side of her neck.
Half-asleep, he was adorable, but whether he'd feel the same way when he was fully conscious was another matter. She'd humiliated herself last night and the atmosphere between them was bound to be awkward. Things often looked different in the cold light of day. And, thinking about cold light, her curiosity got the better of her and she wriggled out of his arms, wrapping the patchwork quilt around her and leaving him covered with the goose down duvet.
As she stood, and could see out of the window, she grasped. Even a tug at the trailing quilt couldn't stop her running to the door, flinging it wide and walking out onto the balcony.
Fresh and white and everywhere. It weighed down the bare branches of the young trees and topped the large stones on the beach so they looked like giant cupcakes. It seemed as if the whole world was buried under a blanket of purity, the past forgotten, everything new.
She twirled around in amazement, taking it all in, then reached for the layer of snow, only an inch deep, that topped the balcony railing. The icy crystals crunched under the weight of her fingertips.
A floorboard creaked behind her and once again she was wrapped up in Ben Oliver. He'd brought the duvet with him and he folded it over them both. She held her breath. She'd thought that, maybe, he'd been giving her the brush-off last night, but the way he was holding her now, as if he wanted to seal their bodies together, laid those fears to rest. He rested his chin on her shoulder so his head was right next to hers and kissed her cheek near her ear.
'Merry Christmas, Louise.'
She twisted her head to look at him, her eyebrows raised. She'd been so caught up in the magic of last night, the beauty of this morning, that she'd completely forgotten that it was Christmas Day.
'Merry Christmas,' she whispered back, suddenly feeling very shy. But, as she went to shake her fringe in front of her eyes, he stopped with a gentle hand.
'Don't do that,' he said, moving so they were now facing each other.
She wasn't foolish enough to say, Do what? After glancing away for a second, she tilted her chin up and met his gaze.
He smiled and, just like that, any residual awkwardness she'd been feeling evaporated. There was such warmth and light in his eyes, so many possibilities, that she felt an answering smile spread over her own face. So they stood they're like that for goodness knew how long, grinning stupidly at each other, saying nothing and everything.
Then his eyes sobered and began to communicate all sorts of other things. Louise didn't wait for him this time. There wasn't much of a difference in their heights, as she reached up behind his neck and pulled him closer, lifting her heels off the floor just slightly.
Kissing Ben Oliver on a snow-dusted balcony on Christmas morning had to be one of the most romantic things she'd ever done. Not only were the kisses perfect, but the crisp cold air on her cheeks and the chill in her toes only seemed to increase the heat spreading from her core. She felt as if she was glowing from the inside out, so much so shivers rippled through her.
Ben pulled away, just enough to focus on each other without going cross-eyed, and tucked the quilt tighter around her.
'How do you feel about cold curry for breakfast?'
She grinned. 'My absolute favourite.'
And, as he playfully pulled her back inside the boathouse, she took one last look at the picture-perfect scene outside. The river reflected the colour of the iron sky perfectly and smoke puffed from the chimneys in the village across the river. As far as the eye could see, the rolling hills were bleached and frosted like the icing on a giant Christmas cake.
It didn't matter to Louise if winter had stolen all the shades and tones and left everything monochrome. To her, this morning, life was very much in Technicolor.
From "CHRISTMAS WISHES, MISTLETOE KISSES" by Fiona Harper
Mills & Boon Romance November 2008
ISBN: 978-0263203615 Copyright: © 2008 by Harlequin Books S.A.
This excerpt is posted by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
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