This year, Christmastide will be extra special for glassblower Shayla Toselli who lives in Canterbury Corner, England. The town square will have its first electrically lit tree, and she has been commissioned to create delicate glass ornaments for the new Duke’s Christmas Eve ball. One morning, the Duke’s youngest brother, Adam Preston, finds himself in the Toselli glass factory. He is fascinated with glass blowing and with Shayla. The temperature in the workshop heats up in more ways than one as the unlikely pair works together in the days leading up to the ball. This will certainly be a Christmastide to remember.
A half-hour later, Sarah had several packages, and Shayla only had a small bag of candy. “You have not seen anything you like as of yet?” Sarah asked in an exasperated tone.
Shayla shook her head. “Not yet.” They entered the shop that still displayed the lavender gown in the window. She liked the merchandise in that shop, and Shayla tried on a dark navy skirt and a floral silk blouse with long sleeves and a scoop neckline. She stood in front of the cheval glass and looked at her reflection.
“That is a good color for you,” Sarah commented as she turned to look at herself in the glass. She glanced over at Shayla. “The skirt is not very full though.”
“I prefer the newer more streamlined style, but I am not sure I need this outfit.”
Sarah laughed. “Shopping is not about necessity. It is about getting something pretty.”
Shayla could not help but laugh at that. “This is pretty, and Papa said I should get something.”
“I like it, but it is not dance-worthy,” Sarah replied.
Shayla moved back and forth as she looked at her reflection. “I have a birthday next week. I could wear it then, and it is fine for the tree lighting festival.”
Sarah shook her head. “It is not sexy enough for a dance. You need something that shows off your figure and bosom.”
“Sarah!” Shayla laughed.
“Well, why not? You are thin and have a good figure. You eat everything, and I wish I could eat as much as you and still be thin.”
They made their purchases and were laughing and talking when they exited the shop, turned the corner, and saw Adam and another man. The two men crossed the street and walked toward Shayla and Sarah. Shayla felt her heart beating faster as she watched Adam walking toward her.
“Miss Toselli, Miss Williams,” Adam said with a low bow. Shayla sighed. Of course, he would be very formal.
She almost retorted and called him Adam, but she decided to play along. “Captain Preston. So nice to see you.” She and Sarah curtsied.
Adam smiled. He recognized Shayla’s sarcasm. “Miss Toselli, and Miss Williams, may I present Captain Shawn Atkinson.”
Captain Atkinson bowed low. “Ladies, it is indeed a pleasure to meet you both.” They responded by curtsying to him. Sarah giggled softly, and Adam chuckled to himself when he heard Shayla’s sigh of annoyance. He knew she preferred informality, but a little formality was fun and besides necessary and expected on a public street.
“Shopping this fine afternoon?” Adam inquired with a nod to the packages they carried.
“Oh yes,” Sarah replied eagerly in a high pitched excited voice. “Christmastide is approaching. Will you be attending the town’s Christmas tree lighting festival this year, Captains?”
“Regrettably, I must return to London before then,” Captain Atkinson replied.
“And you Captain Preston? The whole town is very excited. Duke Wellshore said the tree will be lit with electric lights this year instead of candles,” Sarah sounded excited.
Adam smiled at Shayla. “Will you be attending the festival, Miss Toselli?”
“I have not yet decided,” she replied quickly.
Adam fixed Shayla with a stare. He wanted to ask her to save him a dance, but they had just pretended to be interested in one another at his sister-in-law’s charity party. She might think this was a continuation of the pact they made. He knew he should tell Shayla how he felt about her. He hoped she felt the same way about him. They got along superbly. They talked while they worked and at lunch. They sometimes took walks, and when they danced, he felt that Shayla enjoyed his company and being held in his arms. But he also saw the turmoil in her eyes. Either she did not know how she felt about him, or she was conflicted in her feelings. He laughed to himself. He was sure it was part attraction and part annoyance.
Shayla was the first to break eye contact. “Well, we should continue our shopping, gentlemen.”
Captain Atkinson bowed again. “Lovely to make your acquaintance, Miss Toselli, Miss Williams.”
Adam bowed. “Ladies, enjoy this glorious afternoon.” He looked at Shayla then picked up her hand and kissed it. “Miss Toselli, a great pleasure to see you as always.” Shayla stood staring at him. She was at a loss for words. He smiled at her lack of response and released her hand.
“Good day ladies,” he tipped his hat as he and Shawn walked toward the pub. Shayla stood glued to the spot and watched them walk away. Her hand remained held up in front of her. She still felt the touch of Adam’s lips on her fingers. It sent tingles up her spine. Her eyes were slightly dazed, but then they hardened over. What was his game? she thought to herself.
Cheryl A. Hunter is an author and artist. Her books span multiple genres including historical fiction, contemporary fiction, paranormal fantasy, and nonfiction. Cheryl is also an artist who works in glass, ink and watercolor, and photography. When she is not writing, taking pictures, or creating glass art, she loves to travel. Her interest in Ancient Greek and Roman cultures has taken her to many Archeological sites and museums in several countries.