A Match Made in Mistletoe(8)

By: Anna Campbell

Unholy delight lit Giles’s dark face to flashing brilliance. She realized that while he mightn’t be handsome, he was breathtakingly attractive and brimming with potent masculinity more powerful than mere good looks.

“Consider me at your service, Miss Talbot.” He extended his hand toward her. “Shall we go?”

She took his hand and started when the contact burned, even through his fine leather gloves. Her heart leaped about like a March hare, and anticipation fizzed in her veins. “Go?”

He cast a cool eye around the cavernous church. “Your illustrious ancestors are making me deuced self-conscious.”

She and Giles couldn’t stand in the middle of St. Lawrence’s and do naughty things to one another. What had happened to her brain? “So where?”

He tipped his chin toward the doorway. “That’s a very fine kissing bough in the vestibule.”

“Yes, there is,” she said shakily, as the ghost of her dream stirred anew. The mistletoe that had caused all the trouble came from that kissing bough. “The vicar doesn’t altogether approve of a pagan symbol in a Christian domain, but the villagers would throw rocks through his stained glass windows if he banned the tradition.”

“I’m all for tradition.” Giles drew her down the center aisle and through the doorway to the narrow room marking the boundary between the church and the outdoors. A shadowy domain between the sacred and the profane, where worshippers could pause to remove their coats and gather their thoughts. And at Christmastime, a place for village lads and maidens to steal a kiss or two.

As Giles positioned her under the pretty ball of ribbons and greenery, Serena shivered with a mixture of dread and tremulous excitement.

“Are you cold?” he whispered, although there was nobody to overhear them.

Yes. No. It was colder here than in the body of the church—and that had been like an Eskimo’s kitchen. “I’m…nervous.”

He stepped back and observed her dispassionately, as if checking to see if a painting was straight. “I promise this won’t hurt.”

She shifted from one foot to the other. It might be lily-livered to confess it, but she felt much braver when he touched her. “That’s not why I’m nervous, and you know it.”

Unexpected and breathtaking tenderness tinged his smile. “You can change your mind.”

She straightened and tried to sound nonchalant, but her voice emerged as a croak. “If I deny a kiss under the mistletoe to anyone who requests it, I won’t get married next year.”

He tugged off his gloves and slid them into his pocket. Something about the deliberate action made her shiver again. “Is that so?”

“Yes,” she said on a thread of sound. “In Torver, we’re very serious about our superstitions.”

“Superstitions are dangerous things.”

After her unacceptable dream, nobody knew that better than Serena. “I know.”

“In that case, I shouldn’t tempt fate.” He caught her hand and placed a kiss on her knuckles. A thrill jolted her, even as he released her and crossed to shut and bolt the door to the outside.

Good heavens, he looked like he meant business. How daunting. How…intriguing.

She couldn’t take her eyes off him. Had his walk always been a tiger’s prowl? How had she missed that Giles Farraday oozed sexual confidence?

“What if someone wants to use the church?” she asked shakily.

“They can come back later.”

Serena wanted to ask how much later, but her courage failed. In fact, fears the size of monster frogs performed acrobatics in her stomach. As if observing herself from a distance, she wondered why she didn’t run away shrieking. But however frightened and unsure she was, an army couldn’t drag her away.

He returned to stand before her, cradling her head between his hands. “Are you ready for your lesson?”

His hands were warm and gentle against her hair. She gulped for air, but it did nothing to soothe her nervousness. “I…I think so.”

“I have a feeling you’re going to prove an excellent student.”

“I wish I did,” she admitted.

His laugh was soft. “Don’t worry. You’re in safe hands.”

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