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A Sweeter Revenge [A Christmas Belles Regency] [MultiFormat]
eBook by Joan M. Fox

eBook Category: Romance/Historical Fiction
eBook Description: Winter holidays are an especially festive time in 1813 Regency England. The War of 1812 between Britain and America has all but ended, although another bitter war still rages on the European continent. Nevertheless, England's aristocrats entertain elaborate house parties, hosting new--and old--acquaintances during a frivolous season that is expressed by less formality and more enjoyment. Not hearing from Jordan Brisbane for five years after his abrupt departure for America that left her with a broken heart, Marigold Calloway decides to remain a spinster. Her beauteous twins, Lily and Hyacinth, however, are quite anxious to marry. Unfortunately, it is customary for the oldest girl to marry first. Badgered by her pouting sisters, Marigold devises a planned revenge on Jordan when she learns he will be at her aunt, Henrietta Brisbane's Christmas house party. Now a ship's captain and partner in the Brisbane's shipping firm in America, Jordan accumulated success and wealth after deserting England's shores. Uncertain Belinda is the wife for him, Jordan invites a partner and his daughter with him to Kent. At Henrietta and Walter's mansion, this Regency Romp quickly fills with laughter, amusement, and a bit of mystery, while the odd assortment of party guests meet, mingle, and make merry during Christmas week.

eBook Publisher: Wings ePress, Inc., Published: Wings ePress, 2005
Fictionwise Release Date: July 2006

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During the next few weeks, Jordan spent most of his time with Ben and Marigold and little with the senior Calloways and the younger Calloway girls, who were cloistered in the schoolroom with their teacher. The month of July was an opportune time for him to acquaint himself with his new relatives since after that he would leave for America. There was no certitude if, or when, he would return to England's shores.

The men relaxed and unwound, enjoying a respite before seeking business pursuits. They joked, dreamed, and argued about everything under the sun. They rode into the village and explored the rolling countryside. At times Marigold was asked to go along, but not if the men sought their censored, masculine amusements. During some days, Bennett and Jordan played billiards, draughts, or chess. They lazed on chaises on the sun-warmed, stone terrace attached to the rear of Highcrest Farm's manor with a cool drink of ale or wine in hand while they conversed or argued like intimate friends. Marigold often sat nearby listening or quietly sketching. She was totally infatuated by her dark-haired step-cousin.

Rose had warned Marigold not to intrude upon the men, so Marigold was careful not to be a pest. Nevertheless, she cleverly probed for Jordan's feelings about her. Frustrated because he treated her like a sister the way Bennett did, alas, she was never able to fully read his mind.

One day she noticed that Jordan carried a dog-eared epistle in his jacket pocket. When they were alone, he sometimes read poetry to her from it. If she were allowed to comment, she was pleased and surprised that her ideas were considered, although he never really praised her for them.

Marigold knew she was bright, but she had learned from her mother it was unwise for a female to flaunt her intellect. Rose warned her that a woman should hide her knowledge under a basket until such time she was firmly wed, or it would be difficult to snare a proper husband. Women were supposed to be simply decorative non-entities, but should a family crisis arise, Marigold firmly believed her mother's strength and sagacity could handle any problem.

Now Marigold simply listened to whatever Jordan had to say. He was everything wonderful in her eyes. She hugged absolute certainty to her breast and daily dreamed of marrying him.

Meanwhile, Jordan thought Marigold amusing and lively, and found she loved to talk. He politely listened to her girlish prattle. Her witty stories were often childlike, but always entertaining.

Neither Rose nor Malcolm were concerned about Marigold and Jordan's solo encounters. They were always in full sight, never closeted behind closed doors. And they were cousins, if not through blood ties, by close familial connections.

One day the pair was on the terrace alone. "Let me relate the tale of a barnyard duckling that adopted one of our hounds for his mother," Marigold said. "He snuggled amongst the litter of new pups tight against the bitch. I guess the dog was so surprised, she let him stay." Marigold giggled. "Soon he grew bigger, but it took a while before the mother dog realized something was amiss. She finally growled at him fiercely and chased the duck away, nipping at his tail feathers."

"What happened then?" Jordan asked.

"The drake waddled around the yard after the hound, quacking morosely as if he'd lost his best friend ever. It was quite pitiful." She paused, rolled her eyes, and said wistfully, "I have a feeling we had him for supper. I failed to ask Mrs. Fortune if that was the same duck Cook stuffed and roasted a few weeks ago."

Lounging back in the chaise, his dark, tousled locks falling over his brow, Jordan laughed long and loud. When Marigold joined in, her laughter was as engaging as a soft summer breeze or new as a copper penny. He loved listening to its musicality. Never having a sister, he visualized Marigold as being his. He found himself growing very fond of her. She was so alive, so vibrant, her hazel eyes shining when she spouted silly stories. But, she also listened intently with what seemed genuine interest, soaking up what he said and thought. He felt comfortable and at ease with her, which meant a great deal to him. He had never come across a female with whom he felt so compatible.

Jordan fascinated Marigold. She loved to listen to him, hanging onto his words as if enthralled, poking at and prodding him with persistent curiosity, convinced that he was the man fated to be her mate.

Near him, Marigold was hard pressed not to reach out and brush his dark curls off his forehead, run a palm down his smooth, shaved cheek in a gentle caress, or trail her fingers across his wide, luscious-looking bottom lip. Wanton thoughts regularly besieged her at night. Wicked for a na´ve girl her age, Marigold's wildest fantasies were, at first, loaded with guilt. She'd never felt that way before, but the fantasies persisted. She felt a definite need to kiss his mouth, suck on his lips, taste his skin. As she lay in bed, she shivered when contemplating doing them. She hungered, too, for the time he would enfold her in his embrace and kiss her the way she hoped to be kissed.

On other days she giggled with him, content by the deep sound of his masculine laughter. Her deep attraction to her brother's friend and her-sometime-cousin burrowed into her heart and took root. She was convinced it was true love that she felt for him.

Lord, I felt it the moment I saw him. Emotional excitement, natural and quite wonderful, bloomed inside me so I know what love feels like now.

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