A Christmas Secret

By: Janelle Daniels



“I don’t. And neither did Miss Smith. But I thought that since it was Lady Tisdale’s favorite, I would play it for her, for everyone actually, this evening after dinner. I’d never heard of it before, but I was able to find sheet music for it in the music room. I should be able to play it easily.”

“Excellent.” He squeezed her shoulders, and she stiffened against his touch. It was too much right then. With her feelings out of control as is, his touch overwhelmed her.

He jerked his hands away as if scalded, but he didn’t mention it. “Shall we meet up again before you perform? Are you sure you don’t need to sneak away to practice?” he asked, but his voice had lost its playfulness. She regretted that, but it was for the best.

They couldn’t go on as they were.

“No. I should be fine. I think Lady Tisdale will really enjoy this,” she said, unable to think of anything else.

“I agree.”

She edged toward the path. “I should really get back. My maid will be waiting.”

“See you at dinner.”

She closed her eyes after turning away. The concert would have to be the last time she saw him for a long time.

Her heart couldn’t stand anymore.



* * *



Harry could hardly eat at dinner. Not the festive atmosphere nor the succulent dishes served could persuade him.

Rosalie wouldn’t look at him.

At first, he brushed it off. She was either engaged in conversation elsewhere or focusing on the meal. But as time ticked by, she’d spoken with most others around her except him.

He admitted that touching her in the conservatory was a mistake, but he’d been so happy to be alone with her, he’d forgotten himself.

But feeling her stiffen against his touch had brought him straight back to reality.

Earlier in the hall outside the library, he thought he’d seen interest in her eyes, but he must have been mistaken. She certainly didn’t seem interested. Especially not if his touch in the darkened conservatory caused her to go cold.

What was he even thinking, proposing to her? She obviously didn’t want him.

But it didn’t matter anymore. He couldn’t go on like they were. He had to try to move them forward. If he didn’t tell her how he felt, he’d burst.

As servants cleared the last course, Lady Weston stood from her chair at the end of the table. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been asked for all of us to adjourn to the music room now that dinner has ended. One of our secret helpers would like to perform something special.”

The guest’s interests were peeked from such a veer from tradition. No doubt they were also curious. Which song would be played and for whom?

They all shuffled into the brightly lit room. It was still a touch chilly since the servants had little warning about the impromptu concert.

When they were all seated, Harry nodded to Rosalie to go ahead as planned.

He loved how easy it was with her. How they didn’t need words to communicate. He’d never had that type of relationship with another, and he knew he never would.

Rosalie’s crystal blue gown shimmered in the soft glow of hundreds of candles. She looked ethereal, more angelic than any angel ever painted. She smiled at the crowd, waiting for the chatter to cease.

“Thank you all for this indulgence. As many of you know, I was paired with Viscount Gloucher to give a Father Christmas surprise to someone in our company. We didn’t know this lady well, but, following along with the sneaky Christmas tradition, we were able to ferret out this woman’s favorite song. I’d like to play it for her now.”

Murmers of excitement filled the room as she took her seat at the pianoforte. With a deep breath, she began the song. Achingly romantic notes filled the air, spellbinding the audience as firmly as children gazing at a fully trimmed Christmas tree.

No one moved. No one spoke as Rosalie communicated a story more tender than any words could express.

Harry wasn’t a music enthusiast by any means, but this piece moved him, laid bare pieces of his soul he already struggled to conceal.

As Rosalie drew out the last note, a glistening tear trailing down her cheek, her eyes met his. In that moment, he knew without a doubt that he’d never love anyone but her.

The room remained quiet a moment longer, no one willing to break the spell she’d so expertly woven.

A sob echoed through the room, and all eyes turned to Lady Tisdale.

Harry’s mind reeled. Had they done something terribly wrong? He went to the lady’s side. “Forgive us, Lady Tisdale. We had no wish to upset you. We were told you enjoy hearing this song, and we thought it’d be a nice surprise.”

Rosalie rushed to his side, quickly adding her apology.

The room waited for the older lady to compose herself. When she finally did, drying the last tear from her eye, she smiled at the two of them. “No. Forgive me for carrying on so. That song was my dear Edward’s favorite. We danced to it at our wedding. Today would have been our fiftieth wedding anniversary. You two have given me a wonderful gift.” She took both their hands. “I’ll never forget this. Thank you.”

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