In What Happens Under the Mistletoe, American Amanda Keane gets kissed by mistake under the mistletoe and she's irate to discover that the kisser is Lord Stephen Corry, whose scathing articles for newspapers she loathes. He's also way too witty and attractive for his own good.
What ensues is a battle of wills tied up in Christmas cheer as the two of them find their way to happiness. Who knew that passionate opinions, even on opposite sides, could lead straight to passion?
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"So when exactly do you mean to do this?" Lord Stephen asked.
"Tomorrow, if you can," Amanda said.
"In the middle of the house party?"
"Certainly. I'm not exactly the kind of woman who enjoys sitting around making silhouettes or embroidering gloves. And I doubt you're the kind of man to enjoy shooting or fishing or whatever else gentlemen do during a house party."
"I enjoy such activities upon occasion." A slow smile curved up his lips. "But I confess I'd much prefer squiring you about town."
The rough timbre of his voice affected her most tellingly. "Well then," she said as she strove to ignore that. "Are we agreed?"
"I believe we are." He marched forward, forcing her to back up or be run down. When he halted, his gaze drifted unexpectedly to her lips. "All that's left is to seal our bargain with a kiss."
That fluttering in her belly began once more. "Why would we do that?"
With a broadening smile, he pointed overhead. "Because we're under the mistletoe again."
She looked up, dismayed to see there was indeed another kissing bough hanging from the ceiling. Goodness, how many of them were there?
Then it dawned on her. That was why he'd maneuvered her this direction, the arrogant devil.
And just his mention of a kiss had her heart pounding again, even harder than before. She couldn't gather enough air to breathe, and what air there was seemed rich and thick, heavily perfumed by the Persian irises and Christmas roses of the conservatory.
Or maybe it was just the heat simmering between them that made it seem so. Good heavens, she didn't want to feel this for him, of all people.
"Oh, very well, get it over with," she said, trying for a dismissive tone.
As if he saw right through her, he smiled. Eyes gleaming in the dim light, he tipped up her chin. "Rules are rules."
Then he took her mouth with his.
And oh, what a kiss. His lips were harder this time, commanding rather than entreating. So when he ran his tongue along the seam of her lips, it seemed perfectly natural to open her mouth and let him in.
Everything got more interesting then. His tongue sank inside to play with hers in slow, silky caresses that warmed her blood and banished any lingering reluctance.
He slipped his arms about her waist to anchor her against him; she looped hers about his neck to bring him even closer.
It was amazing, like no kiss she'd ever known. His mouth consumed hers with long, hot strokes that made something heady and wanton curl up from below to entwine her like steam.
This must be what desire felt like. Oh, help.
"I've dreamed for days of having you in my arms, putting my hands on you."
"Why didn't you do anything about it?" Amanda arched into his hand.
"You know why." Stephen planted kisses along her jaw down to her neck. "Your mother was always around. And you wouldn't go to the conservatory."
"Oh. Right." She began to regret her refusal to forgive him for his earlier manipulations, because this sweet intimacy was incredible. Now it was nearly Christmas Eve, and they had little time left to experience such delicious . . . astonishing . . .
"You did it on purpose," he growled against her throat. "And admit it, you plucked all those berries from the kissing bough, too, so I couldn't kiss you."
"Not a bit," she said, then betrayed herself with a giddy laugh.
"I knew it, you cheater." Even as his hand kept fondling her breast through her gown, his eyes gleamed with darker intent. "So now it's my turn to cheat."
He tugged her fichu from her pelisse-robe and tossed it over the back of the settee.
"Stephen!" she cried, but any further protest died in her throat once he started kissing his way down inside the vee of her bodice. "You . . . devilish fellow, what are you doing?"
"Claiming all the kisses I would have taken if you'd left the berries on the bough."
Her breath came in hard gasps as he unbuttoned her gown just enough to draw it open and bare her corset and chemise to his gaze.
Oh, help. "You shouldn't be doing this," she said as her traitorous hands buried themselves in his hair.
He fixed her with a decidedly carnal look. "I shouldn't." Then he tugged down her corset cup and chemise to reveal one breast, and his gaze dropped unerringly there.
Dear Lord. Who would have thought that having a man look at one's naked breast would be so enthralling? The part of her that would normally urge caution had clearly gone to sleep, because she wouldn't have stopped this for the world.
Especially when he lowered his head, closed his mouth over her breast, and began to suck.
What bliss! Her body entirely betrayed her. It pressed into him like a dockside tart. Her fingers clutched him tight to her breast, and her lips scattered kisses over his silky locks. He smelled of mint and bergamot, some rich scent that probably only lords used.
But his mouth was just a man's, with a man's boldness, a man's eager hunger. It made her squirm and moan.
As if that encouraged him to recklessness, he eased her down on the settee until he lay atop her, the strength and power of him surrounding her. That ought to panic her. Instead, it made her feel safe.
This was Stephen, her Stephen. She trusted him with her virtue.
He kissed her again, with heart-stopping strokes of his tongue, and it was perfect. His hand rubbed her breast while his thumb teased her nipple and his mouth made her eager for more.
Then he settled between her legs, and even through her layers of petticoats and skirts she felt an unmistakable bulge hardening against the tender flesh down there. For a moment, it tempted her to be naughty. For a moment, she relished how he pushed against her, rousing urges she'd ignored most of her life.
Until he groaned against her lips, and her good sense reasserted itself. She was playing with fire. And she was the only one who'd be burned by it.
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