Sunday, December 23, 2012

THE CHRISTMAS KING by Lecia Cornwall, Part 5

Here’s the next section of my Christmas romance, THE CHRISTMAS KING I hope that once the holiday baking is done, and the kids are in bed, and the wrapping is more or less under control, you have a few minutes to spend with me here, falling in love at Christmas time in Regency Wales. The second through fourth parts of the story are available here on my blog—just scroll down. The first part appeared on
December 12, 2012 at Ramblings From This Chick’s Historical Christmas Eve (visit the site if you'd like to start reading the story now), and will be posted here on New Year’s Day.


Four Family Members

I’m feeling very fortunate this Christmas. Once again my children are home for the holidays. My son is 21 now, and my daughter just turned 18, and they both plan to eventually make their careers in other countries, my son in Russia and my daughter in England. Who knows how many more Christmases we’ll all be able to be together? So, I’m enjoying every moment. We cook together, have long talks while we wrap, shop, cook, clean, and play together. Bliss! For me, that’s the best part of Christmas. Hoping your loved ones are all gathered close to you, too, this Christmas!


By Lecia Cornwall


The day before Christmas Eve

Edward waited half an hour for Celyn to answer his summons, pacing the library, fuming. He had a cut on his chin from his first attempt to shave without the assistance of his valet, and Mrs. Jones had yet to answer his summons to bring him something to eat here in the privacy of the library, where he wouldn’t have to share it. He paced the floor, counting the minutes.
This was not the Christmas he had in mind. It was nothing like the tranquil holiday in the country he’d pictured, and it was not the calm, ordered Christmas he was used to at Kingscott, either. It was bedlam, and it had to stop. He was in charge, the lord and master of Collingwood.
He glanced up at Caradoc’s portrait, and the old earl smiled back with an enigmatic smile, as if he were laughing at Edward, and knew exactly what he was going through. Well, old Caradoc might have been lenient with his staff, but Edward preferred things to run according to his exact wishes, as was proper. He strode to the door. This chaos was going to end now, even if he had to take Celyn Beauchamp by the hair and insist she listen to him while he set some rules.
“You—” he stopped the maidservant in the hall. “Take me to Miss Beauchamp at once.”
The girl flushed. “But she’s—”
“I don’t care. At once!”
She bobbed a curtsy, and led him along the hall and up the stairs, and paused before a closed door. “She’s in there,” she whispered, and Edward opened the door himself, and stopped.
Celyn was seated on the side of a wide bed, her head resting on the naked chest of a man.
Not just any man. It was Carruthers, his valet.
Carruthers’s nose was as red as a holly berry, but he was grinning from ear to ear, and looked quite content.
“What the devil is going on here?’ Edward demanded.
The valet’s smile fled, and he stared at Edward in horror. “My lord! I was just—that is, I am—I mean, Celyn—”
“Miss Beauchamp!” Edward snapped.
“Yes, of course, Miss Beauchamp. She was just—”
“Good morning, my lord. I was listening to his chest,” Celyn said, regarding Edward calmly. She looked beautiful this morning, even draped over his valet. She was wearing a simple blue woolen gown that clung to her slim curves, and she wore her hair in a simple braid that emphasized the softness of her dark locks.
Carruthers pulled the sheet up to his chin and stared at Edward. “Perhaps I should get up,” he murmured.
“Yes indeed,” Edward said coldly.
“No you will not,” Celyn said, and leveled a glare at Edward. “He has a cold in his head, but thankfully not in his chest, though he most certainly will if he gets up now. He needs rest.”
The valet looked torn, but Celyn’s hand on his shoulder apparently convinced him to see things her way. He smiled at her, and settled back against the pillow. That’s when Edward saw his monogram on the pillowcase. “Is that my —” 
Celyn rose. “Perhaps we could discuss this outside, so John can get some rest?”
“Who’s John?’ Edward asked.
“Me,” Carruthers replied sheepishly. “It’s my Christian name, my lord. John Carruthers—John Daniel James Carruthers, actually.”
            Edward hadn’t known that. The man who shaved him, assisted him with dressing and bathing when necessary had a first name, and he’d never bothered to find out what it was. Celyn was frowning at him in disbelief. Carruthers was clutching Edward’s fine linen sheets to his chin in grim mortification. For some reason, Edward felt as if he just might be the one in the wrong. “Yes, well, perhaps it is better if you rest, make a start on things tomorrow, eh, John?” The valet’s first name sounded wrong on his tongue. He could see the horror in Caruthers’s eyes at the intimacy. Only Celyn looked mollified.
            “Will you sit with John until he falls asleep, Catrin?” she asked the maid, who still hovered in the doorway, watching the whole scene with interest. Edward wondered if Celyn would tuck the covers around the valet—his blanket, too, by the looks of it—and kiss him on the head before she departed, but she merely smiled at him. It was a dazzling, genuine smile, soft, sweet, and full of kindness. it was enough to make a sick man well at once, and a healthy man…Edward felt the breath leave his body.
Celyn came toward him, and he almost opened his arms to catch her, but she passed him, led the way out.
            “Did you need something my lord?’ she asked in the hallway.
            “Yes,” he began. He needed to sweep her into his arms, to make her look at him the way she looked at his valet. “No,” he said, as a man passed them in the hall. Celyn greeted him by name, exchanged a word or two, and introduced Edward. He hardly noticed. The fellow was wearing a pair of fine red calf leather slippers with the Wintercross crest embroidered on the toes. His slippers. “This is exactly why I wished to speak with you, Miss Beauchamp—” he began, pointing at the footwear, but the man grinned at him, grasped his extended hand and shook it.
“Thank you most kindly for the slippers, m’lord. I lost my boots in the fire, had nothing at all to cover my feet. These are doing the job nicely.”
Edward shut his mouth with a snap. feeling like a heel yet again. He followed Celyn down the hall.
“I hope you don’t mind, my lord,” Celyn said. “We are short of blankets and linens and warm clothing for the children—and even shoes, in Owen’s case—and there were so many things on the baggage cart that arrived with John, that I thought, that is I hoped—”
She turned to him, and bit her lip, her eyes wide and beautiful. Edward was lost. He knew this was the precise moment to assert his authority, refuse to allow her to take such a high hand with his belongings, but how could he? He’d look like an ogre, stealing warm clothes from children, snatching slippers from men without boots, tearing the blankets off the sick. He imagined the expense of replacing everything when he returned to London. Carruthers, when he recovered, could start by making a detailed list.
“I trust you at least left me a change of clothing,” he muttered. 
She smiled again. It was sunshine on a cold day, light on snow, pleasure itself. He felt as if he’d made the wittiest, most marvelous pronouncement on earth. Suddenly all the pleasures of Christmas hit him. He could smell gingerbread and cloves and honey, saw stars, felt the breath leave his body yet again. His mouth watered as he stared at her. 
“There you are, my lord,” Mrs. Jones said, bearing a tray filled with gingerbread and hot tea. “I have the tea you ordered, but I thought you’d be in the library. I’ve been looking for you.”
Celyn took the tray. “I’ll take it, Mrs. Jones. We’ll go into Caradoc’s sitting room.”
She led him back to his own apartments, into a pleasant sitting room adjoining his bedroom, with wide leaded windows that overlooked the snow covered garden, and set the tray down.
“I didn’t have any breakfast,” he said, as she cast her eyes over the amount of food on the tray.
Her brows rose. “I left specific orders—” 
“Yes, well, orders seem to have a way of going awry here,” he said, and sat down beside the tray.
“Allow me,” Celyn said, and poured his tea. She put a generous slice of warm gingerbread on a plate and dripped golden honey on it. He watched it melt over the dark surface, felt himself melting. She was standing next to him, close enough to touch. He could smell the faint scent of her soap, something floral.
He caught her wrist when she would have stepped away, held her still. She looked down at him, surprise in the hazel depths of her eyes. He swallowed. There was a soft tendril of hair over her cheek, and he reached up a hand to smooth it back, his fingers brushing her cheek. Her skin was warm and soft, her lips softly pink, slightly parted.
“Would you allow me to—” he began, and stopped. Hell. What if she said no? He wanted to kiss her. Perhaps it was better to ask forgiveness than permission, especially if there was a chance that permission would not be granted. He moved in to kiss her, and felt the soft exhalation of her breath on his mouth, and her eyes closed as she leaned in too. He cupped her face in his hands, took a deep breath, and—
There was a knock on the door. She gasped and pulled away.
“What now?” he muttered.
“Come in,” she said, in a voice that quivered just a little. That at least was gratifying.
“There you are, Celyn,” Aled said, entering. “Louisa and Lady Arabella are looking for you, and Phoebe is in a flap over a gown, and wants your help with that, too.”
Edward noted the old steward was dressed to go out—wearing one of Edward’s own greatcoats, in fact. “Will you be coming out to hunt today after all, my lord? With tomorrow being Christmas Eve, we’ll need a feast. Mrs. Jones says now she has the spices and trappings, she wants a brace of pheasants to use them.”
“We’ll be right there,” Celyn said, smoothing back the wayward lock of hair herself. He felt a twinge of angry regret that the simple task had been accomplished without him. She looked him straight in the cravat, her cheeks flushed with color. “I’d best go and see Phoebe, and get my coat,” she said.
But Louisa burst through the half open door, not bothering to knock. She fell into Celyn’s arms and burst into tears. “It’s Matilda! She’s gone missing.” she sobbed. “She’s out in the snow and the cold, I just know it and she’s just a bit of a thing.”
Edward rose. “One of the children?” he asked.
“Cat,” Aled said dryly.
Louisa turned on him. “She’s a royal cat, descended from a long line of Queen Charlotte’s own. Matilda’s ancestor was given to Gran as a gift, and she’s most attached to her!”
Aled rolled his eyes. “Her ladyship thinks it’s the same one, the exact cat.”
“This is Matilda the sixth, I believe,” Celyn murmured, “But she’s no less beloved.”
“We have to find her!” Louisa wailed.
Aled squared his shoulders. “If she’s out there, I’ll use my hunting skills to track her, and I’ll bring her back safe and sound, lass. Don’t fret. She’s as good as found.”
But Louisa turned to Celyn in horror, and Edward read the fear in their eyes. To Aled, with his faulty vision, a pheasant may look very much like a cat, or vice versa.
“I’d best come at once,” Edward said, taking a sip of tea and giving the gingerbread a regretful look.
Louisa looked at him with stars in her eyes, and threw her arms around his waist. “Oh, thank you! I just knew you were Celyn’s true love, I knew it all along. I started the think this morning that perhaps it was Mr. Carruthers, but now I can see—”
“You’d best go and distract Arabella for a few hours until Matilda is found,” Celyn interrupted.
Louisa nodded. “Please hurry.”



The air was crisp and cold, and the sun was shining on the fresh snow, making the world sparkle like diamonds. Celyn looked round her, trying to see the land as Edward might, experiencing at the beauty of the Welsh countryside for the first time. Collingwood Castle sat on the crest of a hill, overlooking a valley below where a river ran, the ribbon of black water twining in and out of clear blue ice. Beyond the ridge, there was a waterfall, and around the side of the hill, out of sight from here, lay the village—which was in ruins now, of course. The slopes of the hills were thickly forested, and above the trees, the mountains reached heavenward.
Edward took a deep breath of the clean air, and Celyn did the same, catching the scent of pine and winter wind, as he must. He looked content, she thought, as if Collingwood’s beauty appealed to him after all, despite, well, despite everything. His hair was golden in the sun, his gaze keen as he surveyed his surroundings. She liked the way his eyes crinkled at the corners when he squinted at the glare of the sun. He looked like the master of this place, as if he belonged here, even if he was seeing it for the fist time. Only his clothes—a caped greatcoat cut of the finest wool, his top hat, and his elegant boots marked him as a visitor who did not, perhaps, belong after all.
“Which way?” he asked Aled, shouldering his gun.
“We’ll go that way,” Aled said, pointing toward the woods. “Bound to be a pheasant—or a cat—in there. Careful of the wolves, though. Best stay behind me, let me do my job.”
Edward cast a quick glance at her, and she studied her gloves. Aled was a proud man, and she hoped Edward would not take that away from him. She felt his eyes like a touch on her skin, felt his gaze roaming over her green coat, trimmed with soft rabbit fur. What was he thinking when he looked at her? Probably that her garments were far from fashionable, that she was a country bumpkin, unlike the fashionable London beauties he was used to.
She longed to ask him about London fashions. She was no less a woman than Phoebe, and probably might be considered even more vain than her young cousin, since she had far less need than Phoebe to wear pretty clothes. it would probably be better to have a conversation with Edward about taking Phoebe and Louisa to London, giving them a Season and some Town polish so they could marry well, be the wives of gentlemen.
Then she wondered if he was staring at her because he wished to know about the estate, expected her to tell him about Collingwood. She wondered what a good steward or a proper estate manager might say. Would they speak of crop yields and bushels per acre, and the annual income the livestock produced? She swallowed and began to talk. “We raise sheep here, mainly for wool, some for meat. There are cattle, too, and oats, and—” he was looking at her as if she were daft, his gray eyes fixed on her lips, his gloved hands resting on the stock of his gun. Had she said something wrong? “We’ll come out tomorrow and collect greens to decorate the hall. Do they do that in England? I suppose they do. Caradoc and Arabella did so in their youth. They used to tell us tales of roast goose and mistletoe—” she realized she was babbling and stopped.
“My sisters gather greens decorate Kingscott. My stepmother hosts a ball, mostly to find spouses for all of us that remain unmarried, I think. Yes, there’s goose, and ivy and mistletoe in England too,” he said.
She read a wistful look in his eyes. Was there a lady he missed? Or was it just home in general? She bit her lip.
He gripped her arm suddenly, stopping her from taking another step, and she followed his point, and saw the stag, standing in a clearing, watching them.
She heard Aled cry out in surprise, saw him fumble with his gun as the stag began to run. Aled wasn’t ready, had no hope of bringing the beast down. Edward stepped in front of her and took aim, then waited. Celyn was afraid for the magnificent beast, hating to kill it even for food, and yet half afraid Aled wouldn’t bring it down, and the people at Collingwood would go hungry.
She watched Edward hesitate, following the creature’s flight with the barrel of his gun, and braced herself for the shot. What was he waiting for?
Aled had his gun on his shoulder at last, was taking aim, and—she flinched as the guns fired almost simultaneously. Edward lowered his weapon.
The report echoed over the hills, and she heard Aled’s cry of surprise. “I got him! Did you see that? Mrs. Jones will just have to make do with venison for Christmas, won’t she?” he crowed proudly, doing a jig in the snow on his skinny bowlegs.
She watched as Edward set his gun down. “Congratulations. That was very fine shooting indeed.” he said, and she knew.
Edward had killed the deer, and he had done in such a way as to save Aled’s pride, to let him believe that he’d shot the creature, done his job. She put a hand to her brow and scanned the trees until she found it, the shot that had gone wide, gouged the bark of an ancient pine, knocking the snow from the branches. It was far from where the deer had fallen. She looked at Edward again, watched him shake Aled’s hand, listen to Aled’s proud re-telling of how he’d taken aim and fired. She held her breath, waiting for Edward to correct him, but he did nothing of the kind. He smiled, and slapped Aled on the shoulder.
Her lips parted and she stared at him. The sun came through the trees and touched Edward’s fair hair, played over his broad shoulders. Had she been afraid he wouldn’t understand Collingwood? He understood perfectly. She looked at the joy on Aled’s lined face, felt tears in her eyes. She wanted to run through the snow, throw her arms around Edward and give him the kiss they’d almost shared in the sitting room, but Aled was coming toward her.
“I’ll need a few others to help me bring the stag back to the castle,” Aled was saying. “Why don’t I go and get some of the lads, and you stay here, Celyn, see that the wolves don’t get it before I get back.”
Edward looked surprised, and glanced at Celyn. She smiled at Aled. “Go on then. Perhaps his lordship can go and look for a pheasant or two to go with the venison.”
She watched Aled go, skipping through the snow, laughing to himself and listing aloud all the many recipes that could be made from venison. “Venison stew with juniper berries, venison pies, roasted venison, venison soused in wine…”
“Thank you, my lord. That was kind,” she said when Aled was out of earshot.
He looked at her for a moment as if he didn’t know what she meant, and she crossed the clearing to touch the gouge in the tree where Aled’s ball had hit.
He grinned, the pride clear in his eyes now, and all for her. “I’ve always a been a good shot. I hunt deer on my own estates.”
“Aled will dine out—or in, in this case—for months on this tale.”
He said nothing more, and she knew the secret would remain between them.
“I believe you wished to speak to me about something this morning,” she said. “What was it?”
Hs smile faded. “Ah, yes. I wished to impose some rules on the household.”
She bristled, and took a seat on a fallen tree, folding her hands on her knee. “Oh?”
“I woke this morning to find children in my room, and in my bed. They ate my breakfast, and they were wearing my clothes.”
“I see.” She almost laughed, but he looked angry now.
“Do you, Miss Beauchamp? My servants are using my personal belongings!” he continued, his color rising. “Surely these people have their own belongings, their own rooms.”
“We’ve been hard pressed to find clothes and food and even bedding since the fire, my lord. Your arrival—with so many essential things—couldn’t have come at a better time.”
“My valet is sleeping on my sheets!” he grumbled, pacing before her. “He was probably every bit as horrified as I was!”
“Why? He needs sheets and blankets like everyone else. He was very ill. I doubt he even noticed the sheets were yours, if it’s any comfort,” she said.
“That’s not the point. He’s a servant!” Edward said peevishly.
“He’s a person, a sick young man far from home,” she said, rising to her feet. The sun wasn’t shining on him now. He stood under a branch laden with snow, and she was tempted to kick the tree so it fell on him.
“I don’t pay him to be sick!”
“Don’t you ever get sick?” she asked.
“I pay my servants to see that I do not.”
She couldn’t help it. She laughed. “How funny you are!”
He looked horrified. “Not at all. Why should it be seen as funny to enjoy the position in life one is born to, and expect others to do likewise?” he demanded. “There is no order if people do not remain in their places!”
She stared at him. “Or happiness, either. Birth has nothing to do with a person’s heart, or soul, or the kindness one shows to others.”
“I am a very charitable man!” he insisted, looking insufferably pompous. She kicked the tree after all, and watched the snow spill over him. Then she turned on her heel and began to walk away, down the hill.
“Where the devil are you going?” he said, catching up to her a few moments later, still brushing the snow away.
“For a walk,” she said simply. “I would prefer to go alone if you don’t mind. Or is that beyond the privilege of my birth?”
“Are there really wolves hereabouts?” he asked.
She considered telling him the truth, that there were not, and hadn’t been for many generations. “Yes,” she said instead. “Hundreds of them.”
“Then I cannot in all good conscience allow you to walk alone.”
She stopped and turned on him with an angry glare. He nearly ran into her. “I do not need your escort, my lord. I know this place like my own heart, every tree and rock and mountain. I am not a servant you can order to do your bidding. I could have left Collingwood the very day Caradoc died.” She poked his lapel with a sharp finger to make her point. “I have been managing this estate—your estate (poke)—on very little for many months, trying to keep people fed, housed, and happy, waiting for you to arrive.” She poked him again. “It hasn’t been easy, and I did not do it for privilege or my comfort.” Another poke.
He caught her hand in his. There was still snow on the brim of his hat, and as he tipped his head to look down at her, it slid off, and hit her square in the face. She sputtered and stepped back, and he laughed. She supposed she deserved it. He reached out to brush the snow off her hair and her nose. The touch was intimate, it tickled, vibrated over every nerve in her body, made her pause, look up at him. He stared back for a moment, his hand stilling.
“Mistletoe,” he murmured.
She glanced up, saw only sky. His arms came around her, pulled her close, and his lips came down on hers, melting the snow on her cheeks. His mouth fit to her perfectly, and she shut her eyes as he tilted his head, deepened the kiss, nibbled on her lips until she gasped in surprise, and opened her mouth. His tongue plunged in touch hers, the sensation bold, intimate, delicious, hot in the cold air. She slid her hands up around his neck, certain she’d fall if he let her go now. She stood on tiptoes and kissed him back. He pulled her nearer, the length of her body against his, and she could feel his desire right through the thickness of their winter garments. It was exhilarating, and dangerous, but she didn’t want to stop. 
The call of a bird startled them, and he looked up at the bright-eyed creatures cheering them on from the tree.
She slipped out of his arms and began to walk. What had she done? Why had she allowed him to kiss her? It had been the most magical, wonderful kiss imaginable, perfect and unforgettable, even without mistletoe, but it should not have happened at all.  
“I have to go an look for the cat,” she said, looking back over her shoulder, her mouth tingling. He wanted to kiss her again, wanted more than that. She could see it in his eyes, and she turned away, quickening her pace. 
She heard him following her, and she hurried even faster along the snow-covered track, confused tears blurring her vision. He thought her a servant, imagined she was Caradoc’s mistress, so far beneath him he could dally with her at will. What would happen once Christmas ended and duty and more pleasant company called him back to England again? She’d never see him again. He’d go back to pleasure and privilege, and she would become every single thing he thought she was.
She heard his expression of surprise as they rounded the hill and the village came into view. She hadn’t been here since the night of the fire. Burnt timbers clawed the sky, half buried in snow, ugly in the beautiful landscape. The devastation was like physical pain, and Celyn stopped, and pressed her fist to her stomach.

Edward stared at the damage. How many cottages had stood here? There was nothing left to salvage or save. Everything the people of Collingwood had owned had been taken from them in a moment. And Celyn—he looked at her, saw the pain in her eyes.
“Were you here the night it happened?”
She took off her glove, showed him the burn mark on the palm of her left hand. His stomach clenched at the sight. “Aled came to fetch me, but it was already too late. They wanted me to —fix it—but I couldn’t.” She looked at him pleadingly. “You can. You can rebuild the cottages in the spring, give them new homes. Otherwise, they’ll have to leave Collingwood.”
He saw how much it mattered to her. She had no care for herself. She hadn’t asked him for a single thing, except to take care of the people here. Tears filled her eyes, overflowed, and he used his thumb to wipe away a tear that spilled over her cheek. “And you, Celyn Beauchamp, what is it you want?”
She looked at him, wide eyed. “I?” she asked, as if she hadn’t thought of it. “Well, there’s Arabella, and Phoebe and Louisa who need—”
He frowned. “Come now. It’s Christmas, Celyn. Make a wish for yourself.”
He watched her blush, and her eyelashes swept down. “What if it doesn’t come true? Wouldn’t that be worse than never having wished at all, living with the foolish hope ever after that magic isn’t real?”
“I don’t know. But if you never make that wish, then there’s not hope at all of it coming true. What if it does—” A loud squall caught his attention. “What the devil is that?”
Celyn cried out and rushed toward the burnt out shell of one of the buildings, scrambling to loosen a burnt timber, tears still streaming down her cheeks.
“Let me do it,” he said, coming to her side, shifting the heavy beam. “You don’t have to do everything by yourself, Miss Beauchamp. You have a castle full of people who can assist you, share the burden.” The god-awful squall came again, and she caught his arm.
He moved another charred timber, and a pair of bright green eyes stared at him from a dry, snug little hole. “I trust you’re Matilda?” he asked, and the cat blinked at him. A squirming knot of kittens added their voices to their mother’s plea for help.
“Oh, Matilda!” Celyn cried. “How did you get here? Do you know the worry you’ve caused?” Before he could stop her, she tried to reach into the hole. Another beam shifted, and fell against her ankle. She cried out in pain, and he threw his body against the rest of the slithering pile of rubble, keeping it from crushing her.
 “Stay still,” he warned, as he shouldered the wood aside, and tugged her free.
He knelt by her side and checked her ankle. “It’s only sprained,” she pronounced, trying to move away from his touch. He sent her a sharp look of rebuke and began to untie her bootlaces. “We’ll need to remove your boot before it begins to swell, or it will be more painful to do it later.”
She nodded. “I know.”
“Of course you do, but let me deal with it, will you? I’ll carry you back.” he said. She shook her head.
“I can walk, she said stubbornly. “It’s much shorter if we go across the park to the castle, hardly any distance at all.” 
“Miss Beauchamp, you will allow me to be of assistance to you. Not because you are a servant or a lady, or the finest steward, housekeeper, and butler I have ever seen, but because you are a person in need of help. A person who means very much to those who love her.”
She looked surprised at that, but she nodded. “Can we take Matilda?” she asked.
He sighed, and crawled into the cat’s hiding place. “You really must stop considering everyone and everything before yourself,” He told Celyn as he grasped the first kitten, and drew it out gently. “It’s a boy,” he pronounced, and put it into his hat. “And a girl,” he dropped in the next, a black and white scrap of fur. “And another boy.” He looked at Matilda, who extricated herself from the nest, and was now fussing about his hat, regarding her kittens. “A fine family, Your Majesty,” he quipped, and Celyn smiled.
“A fine new start to the village, wouldn’t you say?” she asked, stroking Matilda’s brindled head.
Edward unwound his scarf and wrapped it around her ankle. Then he gently tucked the kittens into the deep pockets of his greatcoat.
Ready?” he asked Celyn, and she nodded. He scooped her into his arms. Her slight weight felt right, as if she belonged there with her head on his shoulder, cradled against his chest. She put her arm around his neck.
Matilda, not about to walk in the deep snow, leapt into Celyn’s lap, and glared at him balefully, playing the perfect chaperone.
“I promise I’ll rebuild the village, Celyn,” he said, and she smiled up at him, and he could have sworn the cat did too.
He set off through the trees with his charges, feeling remarkably content.

1 comment:

  1. Awww! Kittens. How exciting! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas with your children Lecia. I had a merry day filled with food, games, and wonderful memories. We just had a bit of snow come down this afternoon and the kids are running through the yard attempting to build a snowman.
    Is this the end of the Christmas King?