Once Upon a Highland Christmas

Free Once Upon a Highland Christmas by Lecia Cornwall

Book: Once Upon a Highland Christmas by Lecia Cornwall Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lecia Cornwall
her. She was wide-­eyed, her lips parted, inviting a kiss—­or a marriage proposal. He felt his stomach knot. She was waiting for him to speak, and all he had to do was say the words. She would agree. She’d been told she must.
    He looked away instead.
    â€œYou’d best be going back indoors, where it’s warm—­there will be more snow before long,” he said.
    Her brow crumpled. “My boots will be ruined! They’re handmade!”
    â€œFine as they are, they’re hardly fit for the snow or the stable,” he said as he caught her arm, guided her away from a pile of manure she was about to back into, and let go. He felt nothing when he touched her—­no desire, no longing, and certainly not love. “Perhaps Annie could find you some sturdier footwear, and you could save those boots for England. You need a warmer cloak too.”
    She ran a gloved hand over the fine blue wool of her stylish garment, lavishly embroidered around hem and hood with twining pink roses. It was more a costume than protection from any kind of weather worse than a light English mist. “Don’t you like this cloak? Mama says the color matches my eyes exactly. Do you agree?” She leaned toward him, her eyes wide, her face inches from his own, and licked her lips.
    Iain stared into the blue pools, and she stared back at him. She was waiting for him to kiss her. He didn’t want to. He should want to. His aunt Marjorie was right—­Penelope would make the perfect countess. She was born to the role, and he was not. Perhaps if he did kiss her, he’d feel differently. He swallowed and began to lean in, but the door opened and a blast of cold air swept snow into the warmth of the stable. Penelope spun, and Iain stepped back.
    â€œI hope I didn’t interrupt anything,” Annie said, glancing at Penelope, who retreated to lean against the wall, her arms folded over her thin cloak, her blue eyes full of ice. Iain felt relieved by the interruption. He looked at Annie expectantly.
    â€œI just came to tell you that the lass will do well enough, Iain. She needs rest, of course, but there’s nothing broken. She’ll stay here with us for a few days to mend. Will you come and carry her upstairs?”
    Iain immediately dropped the brush and wiped his hands.
    â€œWhat lass? Carry her where?” Penelope demanded.
    â€œOch, did you not think to mention our guest, Iain?” Annie scolded him. “The laird found a lass lost in the snow. Forced to take shelter in a humble cott for the night, they were, all alone.”
    Penelope’s face reddened dangerously, and her jaw dropped. Her eyes swung on Iain, hit him like an arrow.
    â€œAnnie,” Iain warned.
    Annie merely grinned and held out his handkerchief. “Here’s your handkerchief back.” He stuffed it into his pocket as she turned back to Penelope. “Her poor leg was all cut and bashed. Iain bandaged her up with his own linen, just here—­” She indicated a place higher on her thigh than the wound had been, and he watched Penelope turn a deep shade of plum.
    His cousin tossed her head. “It was some silly child, no doubt. Is that not what a ‘lass’ is in Scotland?”
    Annie cackled. “Och, she’s no child. She’s a woman grown, and a beauty. She’ll not be walking for a day or two, so Iain will need to carry her. Not that it will be any hardship. She’s as light as a snowflake by the looks of her. Is she, Iain?”
    He didn’t answer. Penelope’s blue eyes boiled. Iain had no doubt she was warmer now. “Can she not walk on her own? What room is she in?” his cousin demanded.
    â€œThe only one suitable for an earl’s sister—­the green chamber,” Annie said.
    Iain’s heart lurched. That was his room. Alanna would fill his bed . . . he forced himself to concentrate.
    â€œAn earl’s sister?” he

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