Published by: eXtasy Books
Author : Beth Fuller
Word Count :10443
Publication Date :2021-12-24
Series : #
Heat Level :
- Product Code: 978-1-4874-3395-6
Charlotte Cotterhugh is determined to surprise her husband for Christmas, despite his uncanny knack of spoiling all her secrets before she can reveal them. Can she keep her surprise Christmas party and thoughtful gifts under wraps before he can discover them? And will she get any surprises of her own?
Lady Charlotte Cotterhugh tried hard to frown at her husband over the breakfast table, though she wasn’t sure how convincing she was. Edward at least had the good grace to blush behind his devilled eggs.
“It can’t be helped, Charlotte,” he said. “I know you must be disappointed. I’m sorry.”
“On Christmas Eve though, Edward. Surely today of all days…”
“People still get sick on holidays, my love,” he said earnestly, his dark eyes wide and shimmering behind his even darker hair. “I have a duty of care towards them.”
Charlotte tried hard to swallow her smile, dabbing at her mouth delicately with her napkin to hide the movement. If she let him see her grin now, all would be lost. It was hard to contain it though—there was something delightful about seeing Edward dedicated to hard work at last. It hadn’t been good for him to be too swallowed up in his own cares and vices as a lazy gentleman’s son. He suited being the local village doctor much more.
“Well, I cannot argue with that.” She sighed, somewhat theatrically, and hoped that she wasn’t overdoing it. Subterfuge was not her forte, generally speaking. “Go, then, I will not be selfish in keeping you any longer.”
Edward grinned at her in relief and hurried around the breakfast table to draw her up into his arms.
She couldn’t restrain a giggle as the cutlery fell from her hand and clattered loudly to the floor. “Stop it,” she whispered. “The servants will see us.”
“Let them,” he murmured into her neck. “Is it really such a scandal for a man to adore his wife?”
“It is at the breakfast table,” she said firmly, pushing him away, but she softened the words with a kiss to his stubble-brushed cheek. As his gaze met hers, she found his eyes just as warm and melting as ever. Even now, three years after they had wed, she still felt like a giddy schoolgirl every time he stared at her like that.
“I know you must be disappointed,” he murmured. “I know you wanted us to spend the holiday together. I am sorry.”
“There is tomorrow still. Dr Mendle has still agreed to do the rounds then, hasn’t he?” she asked, and Edward grinned at her with that boyish, charming grin she always loved. Even as he neared his thirties, he still seemed like an errant schoolboy. She thought perhaps he was going to be youthful and mischievous until the day he died.
“Yes, he is,” Edward said, “though it was hard work to persuade him to it. Ever since Mendle took me on as a junior partner, he has been edging towards retirement. I think by this time next year he will have given the practice entirely into my hands.”
That would be no bad thing, Charlotte mused silently, either for Birchton, the little village they lived in, or for Edward himself. It would only be she, herself, who lost out, deprived of even more of her husband’s company. Still, he did some good in the community, and she could not begrudge him that. Perhaps he could take on an apprentice or junior partner of his own and split the load.
She ran a hand over his cheek. “Do you have an idea at least of what time you will be done?”
He pulled her closely against him once more, his hands snaking around her back, his fingers pressing deeply into her skin through the thick winter dress she wore.
“No later than supper time, I promise,” he vowed against her mouth. His breath was hot and his lips were soft, and she was tempted to drag him back to bed and forget the duties of the day at all when he pulled himself reluctantly away. She could see the same fire of regret raging in his eyes, too, but he quirked a rueful smile at her and slipped out of the breakfast room before she could regain her senses. She just had time to slip to the large box windows and wave out at the figure merrily whistling his way down the sweeping drive of Drymote Estate—his doctor’s bag in one hand, the other gallantly trying to hold his hat to his head against the bitter winter winds—before he was swallowed by the gloomy morning light and was gone completely.
Charlotte lingered there for a moment more, her fingers resting lightly on the glass, staring after the man she loved, and then she pulled herself together with a force of will. She had a lot to do today, especially if she intended the surprise to be ready before Edward’s return tonight…
She hugged herself gleefully at the thought, far too excited to be able to return to her unfinished breakfast. She’d only picked at it this morning, much to Edward’s chagrin. He always told her that she was far too thin, with the anxious appraisal of a medical man, but she could barely bring herself to eat a single mouthful today. Her appetite seemed to have disappeared entirely, perhaps with the excitement of the upcoming day, though she could hardly say that to Edward. She had assured him that she had always been given to being scrawny—and it was quite normal in a woman as short as she was to be petite all over, but he insisted on heaping up her plate with second helpings anyway. Of course, she’d told him that they shouldn’t waste precious resources on extra food she didn’t need, but, in truth, thankfully, that was no longer becoming such a concern.