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Secret Rendezvous

A Christmas Code by Jacki DeleckiThe door to the conservatory squeaked open pouring light into the room. She jumped behind the Palmaceae. Her heart accelerated wildly. She waited, her ears drumming with the silence.

“Gwyneth?”

Ash’s whispered voice was a balm to her shattered nerves.

She stepped out from the plant. “Ash, I’m here.”

He walked toward her. His strong profile and confident walk made her want to run into his arms, but she controlled the impulse.

“Why are you hiding?” He asked in a teasing tone.

“Why were you late?” She didn’t like the idea that he’d found her frightened at their first secret rendezvous.

“Late?” He placed one hand on his hip, his tone sardonic. “I didn’t realize I was late.”

“Never mind. I’m unsettled after my fall.”

He stepped closer to inspect her carefully, his light eyes moving over her body. “Did you trip?”

She wasn’t quick to get mad, but she felt the anger slowly moving up her spine. Cord and Ash had tormented her relentlessly about her clumsiness when she was a young girl. “First of all, I didn’t trip as you suspect. And I wasn’t clumsy as a girl. I always tried to impress you with my daring feats. And I accomplished my deeds despite growing almost as tall as Cord in one year.”

Ash snorted, which only added fuel to the burning fire of her displeasure.

“Honey, you’re not that tall.”

His endearment went a long way in appeasing her. “Did you just see Lady Charolois in the hallway?”

“No. I didn’t see anyone.”

“She just ran out of the door at the same time someone knocked me down.”

“Someone knocked you down?” Ash pulled a pistol from beneath his waistcoat and scanned the room. He moved closer to her. “Are you hurt?”

“I’m fine, just shocked.”

“Which way did he go?”

“I’m sure he left through the garden door when I was getting up from the floor.”

“Did you recognize him?”

“No. When I was struggling to stand up, I heard the door open and saw Lady Charolois running out of the door.”

“Let me take you to your room then I’ll come back here to look around.” Ash took her by the elbow and led her toward the door.

“I’m not going to my room. I’ll go with you.” She pulled away from his arm.

He took her arm again and led her to the hallway. “You’re not going anywhere, but back to your room. You could’ve been hurt…”

She looked down the hallway and behind her before she whispered, “I’m fine. You said I could be part of this mission.”

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