Christmas story part 1
“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…”
Miss Charlotte Kingston’s voice rang out clear and true. She stood by the pianoforte as her sister Hester played. “… a partridge in a pear tree. On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…”
Ryder Myles, Lord Winchester, found himself regarding the smooth contours of her face, her neck, her shoulders; the way her chest rose and fell as she sang. It was dashed inconvenient being in love, but he’d known it as soon as he’d arrived at Lord and Lady Henley’s three days ago and first set eyes on her. How had he missed spotting her in London he did not know.
At least it was Christmas, a time for some merrymaking, and perhaps a little mischief.
Later, when the gentlemen joined the ladies in the drawing room following supper, Ryder sat down beside her. “Miss Kingston, I must complement you on your fine voice. You had me quite captivated.”
“Thank you, my lord.” She moved an inch away from him and rearranged her dress so that the hem completely covered her ankles and only a peep of slipper showed.
“I invite you to call me by my given name. Ryder.”
“Thank you, m… Ryder.”
“Thank you, Miss Kingston.”
She looked at him directly for the first time. Her eyes were prodigiously blue. Her lips had parted slightly. Well, he was a man, not a monk. No, certainly not a monk.
“You might call me Charlotte.” Her voice was soft.
Ryder coughed. It was hot in the drawing room. Too much coal on the fire. And his valet must have tied his cravat too tightly. It chaffed him. Love! Ah no, he had no belief in real love, true love. That he’d leave to romantics and lady novelists.
“Lord Winchester?… Ryder… are you feeling quite well?” Her eyes had narrowed.
“Overeaten I should think. The stuffed partridge was far too tempting.” He patted his stomach. “Would you excuse me?”
The French doors were, quite sensibly, locked but he found his way outside onto the unlit patio with the help of one of the footmen. He drew in deep breaths. The air was cold enough for snow. Yet the dark sky was full of stars, not clouds. It would not snow tonight.
The cold began to permeate through his clothing as the truth hit him: he really was going to be sick. He ran across the lawns, jumped over the low brick wall and into the welcoming darkness of Lord and Lady Henley’s orchard.
He stopped at the first tree, unable to prevent the inevitable. He drew deep, cold breaths and wiped his mouth with his handkerchief.
The sound of twigs snapping. Footsteps.
Ryder straightened up and turned around.
“You rushed off so suddenly,” Miss Kingston said. “I was… concerned.” Her brow furrowed. “What are you doing by that pear tree?”
*** To be continued... ***
Another UK Regency Author now has 48 hours to write the next installment! Come back on 5th December to read what happens next.