Christmas story part 4
Happy Christmas to you all. I hope you are enjoying our story Anne Herries (part four)
Christmas Story part four: four calling birds
'I fear I must say goodnight,' Charlotte said and fled back to the house, laughing inside.
Ryder stared after her for a moment and then smiled wryly. He had never been known for his patience and she was such a delicate, beautiful creature. He must not rush her.
It had been such a magical evening, with Lord Waverly and Lord Winchester vying for her favours! Charlotte had lain restless for some hours before she could sleep, but now it was morning again. She stood at the library window looking out at the enchanting scene. Snow had been falling steadily overnight; pristine and sparkling, it enticed her to open the long windows. She could hear the doves calling from the tall trees at the far end of the lawns, and, as she watched, someone came through them, startling the birds and sending them winging into the air. She counted them as they rose effortlessly into the blue sky, 'One, two, three, four…'
It dawned on her suddenly that she had just received the fourth gift from the song that she had sung that previous night, when Lord Winchester had been taken so dreadfully ill and then tried to conceal it from her. She smiled a little wistfully, because there was something she wanted so very much, but she did not see how it would ever be hers.
'What are you doing?'
She turned and saw Ryder standing just behind her, a whimsical expression in his eyes, and her heart raced madly. She was becoming more and more aware that she found him very exciting - but then, she liked Lord Waverly too despite his dreadful reputation.
'I was listening to the calling birds – and four of them just flew from those trees down there.'
Ryder nodded, thinking how perfect she was in every way, her mouth so soft and enticing, her body so tempting. He was aware of an overwhelming desire to make love to her…but then he realised that she was sad and in an instant the pulsing desire in his loins was stilled as he moved towards her.
'What is it – can't you tell me?'
'I was just thinking of Jack…'
'Jack?' Ryder was puzzled for a moment, then recalled hearing a tale somewhere. 'Are you speaking of your brother?'
'Yes…' Charlotte sighed. 'He disappeared when he was sixteen and I was but a year younger. He had taken me riding earlier that day and he kissed my cheek when I went to bed – but in the morning he had gone and I have never seen him since.'
'And you miss him terribly, don't you?'
'Yes,' Charlotte admitted. She smiled up at him then, feeling closer to him at that moment than she ever had. 'I was just wishing…' She shook her head. 'It is foolish to long for something you can never have…'
Ryder was conscious of an overwhelming need to comfort her. He had known that he loved her, wanted her, desired her – but until this moment he had not realised that she was becoming infinitely precious – so precious that if he did not win her, his life would be empty.
He reached out to touch her face with his fingertips, the longing so fierce that he could not resist taking her into his arms, pulling her close so that it was as if their hearts beat as one. His face was soft with desire as he lowered his head, his mouth taking possession of hers in a kiss so sweet that it left them both feeling weak and light headed.
'Ryder…' she breathed. 'I wish…I do wish…'
Ryder smiled down at her but said nothing. He believed he understood what she wanted so much. It was an impossible dream perhaps, because four years had passed since her brother had disappeared, but there was nothing to stop him making inquiries. Meanwhile, there was something he wished to tell her.
'Charlotte, I wanted to ask…'
Behind them the door opened and Lady Armstrong entered. 'Ah there you are Lord Winchester,' she said. 'You are just the gentleman I need. Please come immediately. We are going to organise a snow fight for it seems a pity to waste all this wonderful snow. Several gentlemen are refusing to entertain us, but I am persuaded you will not – and surely you can persuade some of the others?'
Ryder shot a rueful look at Charlotte. 'We shall speak of this later,' he whispered and turned to Lady Armstrong. 'Madam, I am all yours to command. You wish for a snowball fight and you shall have one…'
Charlotte watched as he followed the lady from the room, and then sighed. What had Ryder been about to ask her? Perhaps he would tell her later that evening…