The Legend of the Mistletoe
Paige glanced around the room to make sure no one saw her escape. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to join in the Christmas festivities with her family. She just needed a moment to reflect on what had transpired over the last few days and she knew that wasn’t going to happen with her siblings and cousins vying for her attention to play a game of whist or charades.
Most of all she wanted to avoid him.
Noting that everyone was occupied with the entertainments they’d chosen for the afternoon, Paige quickly slipped out the door and sent the first maid she found to fetch her cloak. It looked like they were due for another bout of snow soon. She also acknowledged that she would be taking as long as she could before rejoining the others. She much preferred the warmer months as she didn’t have to be cooped up with everyone for days on end.
She breathed a sigh of relief when she finally saw Mary approaching with her cloak. “Thank you, Mary. Please don’t mention where I’ve gone. At least not for half an hour,” she said to the maid as she took the coat from her and slipped it around her shoulders. She didn’t wait for a reply before she turned and escaped the house through a door in the drawing room. Silently she thanked her lucky stars that no one was passing the afternoon in the room.
She was so absorbed in her thoughts she didn’t notice the tall broad shouldered frame following closely behind her.
Paige took a deep breath of the cold fresh air then exhaled watching the cloud of steam that puffed out in its wake. Why had Da invited Lachlan to stay? She understood he had a responsibility to his welfare since he’d been sent to bring a message all the way from Blackwell Castle in Scotland, but that didn’t mean he had to extend the invitation to stay until Twelfth Night. She didn’t know if she could stand having to see the man at every meal for the next two weeks.
Worse she was going to have to join in some of the entertainments as well. The memory of the last time she’d played with him along with her brother and sisters rose to her mind.
They’d all been playing hide and seek and he’d convinced all the others that she’d gone back inside after glimpsing her hiding in the bushes near the pond. She’d waited until it was almost full dark before she’d finally realized what had happened. She wasn’t surprised that he’d done the same to her sisters as well. They’d been hiding together though since Tory had been too afraid to be alone that summer.
“You shouldn’t be out here in the cold, Sprite.”
Paige stopped abruptly at the sound of the deep voice with its unmistakable brogue. It spoke of someone who hadn’t left the country he’d been born in and thus hadn’t adopted the more cultured tones of the gentry the way her Da and brother, Chase had. There was only one person present at Blackwell Manor who had that voice. Lachlan. She spun on her heel to face him irritation that she couldn’t even spend a few minutes without him protruding on her solitude.
Ah, but he was already intruding wasn’t he? A tiny voice whispered in her mind. She ignored it and the fact that she had indeed been thinking about him. She swallowed hard at the sight that greeted her. He looked far too devastatingly handsome in the suit he’d borrowed from Chase. “Don’t you have something better to do than plague me, Mr. Craig?” The question came out more forcefully than she’d intended dripping with her obvious irritation.
The corners of his lips tipped up. “I dinna figure ya should be coming out here alone, Sprite. What with the coming storm and all.” He took several steps shortening the distance between them. “I’m quite certain yer Mam and Da would never forgive me should something befall ya if they found out I knew you’d come out and not done anything to bring ya back into the warmth of the house.”
Paige couldn’t believe her ears. He really thought to make her come back inside. At one time in her life she would have followed him anywhere. The love she’d thought she had for him all those years ago had been a silly girls dreams, a first love that hadn’t been reciprocated. She knew that for certain when she’d found him tuppin’ one of the village lass’s after she’d finally realized the others had forgotten about her during that fateful hide and seek game seven years ago. Heat suffused her at the thought of that memory. He hadn’t seen her of course, but she’d never been able to forget it.
When he’d shown up yesterday not only had the memory come back full force she’d found her yearning to know what it felt like to be held and touched the way he had the girl in her memory. She shook her head and walked away from him deeper into the trees that lined the side of the garden. “Nothing’s going to happen to me, Mr. Craig. I’ll only be out here a short while. I just needed a breath of fresh air is all.”
Paige gasped in surprise when she felt his strong arm encircle her waist.
He leaned closer until his breath feathered over her ear. “Are ya sure ya weren’t trying to avoid me?”
She shivered and pushed back hard breaking his hold causing him to knock against the trunk of the tree making large clumps of snow to cascade down on him.
He looked up in surprise as though he’d just realized they were under a tree. When he returned his gaze to hers his eyes burned with determination and a mischief that she was sure didn’t bode well for her.
“What? You had that coming you big oaf. I didn’t give you leave to touch me,” she huffed.
“Do you know what yer standing under, Sprite?”
Paige glanced up. “A tree,” she said not bothering to keep the sarcasm out of her tone. What kind of lack wit did he take her for?
“That’d be mistletoe yer standing beneath.” When she didn’t respond he continued, “I’ll be claiming my kiss before I take ye back inside where it’s warm.”
Be sure to stop by tomorrow to read the next installment of the story.
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