The 2013 Christmas Card
The 2013 Christmas Card
By Meggan Connors
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: Sensual
When her father loses her in a poker game, Lexie Markland is sent to work in the household of Nicholas Wetherby for one year to pay off the debt. Innocent, but not naïve, she is savvy enough to know she must maintain her distance from this man, who frustrates her with his relentless teasing but whose kisses bring her to her knees. Because although she may be just another conquest to him, it’s not just her heart in jeopardy should she succumb to Nicholas’ considerable charms.
Since his brother’s death almost a year before, nothing has held Nicholas’ attention for long—not women, not booze, not even an excellent hand at cards. Nothing, that is, until he meets the woman he won in a drunken night of poker. Intrigued by his prize and her chilly reserve, he makes it his mission to crack Lexie’s cool demeanor. But even as passion explodes between them, the question remains: will Nicholas be able to take the ultimate risk…and gamble on love?
Nicholas Wetherby threw back his whiskey in a single swallow. He hadn’t touched his cards since he had first looked at them, casually raising bets as other players placed them. Recognizing Nicholas’s betting patterns as those of a man with a remarkable hand, the other players at the table folded, one after the other. All except one.
Idly twirling a silver dollar between his fingers, Nicholas leaned back in his chair, hooked his arm over the back and studied the last remaining a player, John Markland. Markland was a man who had been perpetually down on his luck since the death of his wife, and any good sense he may have once had must have died with her. Only an improbable run of good fortune brought Markland to this particular table, and he played like a man possessed. Nicholas had once heard he lived more or less hand-to-mouth in a seedy part of town with his daughter, and the stack of cash in front of him would keep him in food and booze for a good month. If the man had any common sense left, he wouldn’t push his luck—he would fold this hand, gather his winnings, and count both his cash and his blessings.
“How much you got, Markland?” he asked.
Tobacco smoke clung to the air as Markland mashed the end of his cigar between his teeth. Making a show of counting his money, he said, “Ninety.”
Still not looking back at his cards, Nicholas tossed in a hundred dollars. A part of him expected Markland to fold over the casual way he placed his bet, as if he didn’t care about the sum of money being wagered. And, in fact, he didn’t.
“Well, that ought to cover it.”
The desperate greed lighting his eyes poorly disguised, Markland stared at the cash in front of him. The problem with Markland was that he lacked both the fortitude and the skill to earn his money, so he had to win it. Pity he wasn’t even very good at that.
Nicholas despised men like him. But then, Nicholas despised just about everyone these days.
“I’ll sign over the house to you if you go all in, Wetherby.”
Nicholas chuckled, but it felt hollow in his gut. “I’m sure it’s mortgaged for more than it’s worth. I think not.”
He didn’t want anything Markland had to offer, but at least the betting was getting interesting. The familiar rush accompanying a big win caught his attention and pierced through the languor that had been dogging him for months. Ever since the death of his brother almost a year before, no amount of drink or women seemed to be able to fill the void in his life, though a big win at poker at least piqued his interest for a time.
“I’ll give you my watch,” Markland said, fishing into his pocket. “It’s pure gold.”
Nicholas eyed the banged-up trinket his opponent dangled in front of him, acting like a street vendor hawking ‘genuine diamonds’ or some cure-all elixir. As if he would want such a piece of junk. Nicholas almost wished the man had more pride.
“I have a pocket watch, and I don’t need another,” Nicholas replied, swiftly losing interest in the betting and wanting to move on to the next hand. “Just call with the ninety and let’s be done with this. Except for the cash in front of you, you have nothing I want.”
Markland fidgeted in his seat and tapped his index finger nervously on the worn, green felt of the card table. His eyes shifted from Nicholas to Nicholas’s money, and over at the bar. “A moment, Wetherby,” he said, holding up his hand. “Barkeep!” he shouted to the man standing behind the gleaming mahogany bar. When he turned in their direction, Markland said, “Bourbon whiskey, for me and my new friend here. The ‘48, if you would.”
“Going for the good stuff, I see.”
“Nothing but the best for me and my friends,” Markland said, raising a glass in a toast.
Never one to turn down a free drink—especially not one as good as the ‘48—Nicholas nodded his thanks, replied, “Indeed,” and drained his glass. He placed it on the table with heavy thud and said, “Just call.”
“No, wait!” Markland cried. “My daughter! If I lose, I’ll give you my daughter!”
I am so excited to introduce one of my favorite new authors, Sarah Hegger! Sarah’s first book, The Bride Gift, is coming this Spring from Soul Mate Publishing.
My first love was, and still is, one of the most beautiful men I have ever seen. He works today as a professional actor and is married with two young children. I am thrilled to say that I can now wish him all the happiness in the world.
We met at university, both of us first year drama students. I think it fair to say we both fell fast and hard, as only the really young can do. About six months into our relationship, real disaster struck. We were crossing the street in front of the theatre, on our way to a performance. A man in a car at the intersection asked for directions. First Love stopped to give them. As they were talking, the lights changed and First Love ran for the sidewalk. He did not see another car, anticipating the green light, cut past a bus between him and the sidewalk. I watched, sickened as First Love was hit and flung several meters into the intersection.
Not a night I will ever forget. I have strange images that run through my mind, even now. The sneakers that flew off his feet to land far away from where he lay, the incredible kindness of strangers that crowded round and covered him with coats to keep him warm, the cop that told me not to worry – it was the ones that didn’t scream that you should worry about. I remember a woman who held his legs down while the paramedics put a mask on his face. First Love, in respiratory distress, kept pulling into a fetal position and it was dangerous for his lungs. I remember being in the ambulance with him – sirens, paramedics, trying to keep my balance as we raced to the hospital. Mostly, him telling me over and over again how much he loved me. Then, I remember the awful silence as he stopped speaking altogether.
We arrived at the hospital and someone told me to wash my face and hands before his mother arrived. I was covered in his blood. Then, the awful waiting. His family arriving. My family arriving and more waiting. The news filtering out of the emergency room was not good. Leg broken in two places, ribs broken, collapsed lung and a head wound. He was young they kept saying. He was young and fit and it was the best chance he had.
This part of the story ends happily, however. He had an amazing medical team that put his leg back together and First Love danced again – quite literally. He was a beautiful and talented dancer. It took several long weeks in the hospital, but he recovered fully. I was with him all the way.
The inevitable happened and as young guys do, he moved on. First Love broke up with me after about a year. I was devastated. I had invested so much of myself in him and his recovery. I couldn’t believe it was all over. And here is the part that I hate to admit. I lost it, behaved terribly and made his life a living hell for a couple of months.
About two years ago, I stumbled across him via the internet and wrote him the letter I have always wanted to write. I told him how much I had loved him and apologized for making him so miserable. I said that when I looked back now, it was with so much love and fondness. He wrote back within an hour. He said thank you for the letter. He had never forgotten how much he relied on me during that time in his life and all he remembered now, was the love.
Born British and raised in South Africa, Sarah Hegger suffers from an incurable case of wanderlust. Her match? A hot Canadian engineer, whose marriage proposal she accepted six short weeks after they first met. Together they’ve made homes in seven different cities across three different continents (and back again once or twice). If only it made her multilingual, but the best she can manage is idiosyncratic English, fluent Afrikaans, conversant Russian, pigeon Portuguese, even worse Zulu and enough French to get herself into trouble.
Mimicking her globe trotting adventures, Sarah’s career path began as a gainfully employed actress, drifted into public relations, settled a moment in advertising, and eventually took root in the fertile soil of her first love, writing. She also moonlights as a wife and mother.
She currently lives in Draper, Utah, with her teenage daughters, two Golden Retrievers and aforementioned husband. Part footloose buccaneer, part quixotic observer of life, Sarah’s restless heart is most content when reading or writing books.
She would love it if you dropped by and said hello.
Coming in Spring, 2014 from Soul Mate Publishing
The Bride Gift by Sarah Hegger
1153, in the period dubbed ‘The Anarchy’, King Stephen and Empress Maud are not the only ones embroiled in a fierce battle of the sexes.
Determined to control her own destiny, wilful Helena of Lystanwold has chosen just the husband to suit her purposes. But, when her banished guardian uncle attempts to secure her future and climbs through her bedroom window with a new husband by a proxy marriage, she understandably balks. Notorious warrior Guy of Helston is everything Helena swore she would never marry; a man who lives by the sword, like the man who murdered her sister.
This marriage finally brings Guy close to his lifetime dream of gaining lands and a title. He is not about to let his feisty bride stand in his way. A master strategist, Guy sets out to woo and conquer his lady.
Against a backdrop of vengeance, war and betrayal, Guy and Helena must learn to forge a united front or risk losing everything.
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