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A Wallflower's Christmas Wreath (High Seas & High Stakes, Book 3) (Ebook)

A Wallflower's Christmas Wreath (High Seas & High Stakes, Book 3) (Ebook)

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When Mother Nature is in the mood for a Christmas miracle, anything can happen…

Heidi Lewis never thought her best friend would abandon her. She was wrong. Because when he came home from London with a fiancée who despised her, their lifelong relationship died. But now he’s back. And while she’d love to give him a second chance, she’s just not sure her heart could stand losing him again…

Matthew Stanford knows he made a mistake when he let Heidi go. Now that his horrible betrothed is firmly in his past where she belongs, he wants nothing more for the holidays than to win back his childhood friend’s trust. It won’t be easy. But he’s
sure Heidi’s worth the trouble…

When fate—and a devastating storm—strands them together, Heidi and Matthew realize their feelings for each other are decidedly
romantic this time around. And that it’ll take more than the magic of the season to get them to happily ever after…

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Christmas Eve, 1821

Heidi waved to her mama, who stood at the door to their cottage before she made her way along the icy road toward Lord Levinstone's great house.
Today was Christmas Eve, and she had been looking forward to seeing his lordship, her closest friend, again now that he was back from London.
The great, Tudor-style home overlooked their small fishing village, and she admired the estate as she came closer. Huddling into her kerseymere spencer and bear muff, Heidi was glad the stinging, cold air was not so bad during her walk.
Multiple carriages came and went, and her steps faltered with the uncertainty of whether or not she should have called. Had she come at a bad time? What caused such a flurry at his lordship's normally quiet estate?
She continued on, a slice of her mother's herb-buttered bread—a favorite of the viscount and a gift she gave yearly to him—safe in her hands. The thought made her smile, and she came to the front door after several minutes of walking.
Heidi knocked and beamed at Smithers, who greeted her. "Ah, Miss Lewis, Merry Christmas," the old retainer said, gesturing for her to come inside.
"Merry Christmas, Smithers," she returned, glancing past the butler and spying a pretty young woman hanging off Levinstone's arm.
Heidi smiled, hoping the gesture hid her shock and walked up to her friend she had known since childhood.
"Merry Christmas, Lord Levinstone, and welcome home. The village has been wondering when you would return from Town since the Season has been over for several weeks," she said, glancing at the young woman whose distaste was as clear to see as the ocean from his lordship's front door.
"Miss Lewis, what brings you here?" Levinstone sputtered, looking nervously at the woman at his side. "Was there something you needed to see me about?"
Heidi frowned, confused by his odd manner and question. "Of course not, my lord. I have brought you the yearly Christmas gift from Mama. Your favorite," she said, removing her hands from the muff and showing him the wrapped bread she had brought for him.
He barely looked at what she held. "Thank you, that is very kind. Please send my regards to Mrs. Lewis when you return home."
"What is that?" The woman at his lordship's arm snickered, her face one of distaste as if Heidi held a rotten, stinking fish instead of a loaf of bread.
"As I said, miss. It is her buttered bread for his lordship. A gift we give him yearly."
Heidi looked to Levinstone and wondered when he would introduce her to his highly polished, elegant friend. The silence stretched between them all, and unease settled in her stomach. For the first time in all the years she had known him, she felt unwelcome.
Levinstone cleared his throat. "Miss Lewis, may I introduce you to my betrothed, Lady Emma Arden. We're to be married before next Season. The wedding is to be held in London at St. Paul’s."
"Before all our friends," the woman sneered, looking Heidi up and down. "You should travel to London, Miss Lewis, especially if you're to call on your local lord. The modiste here is lacking, I must say," she did indeed say.
Heat kissed Heidi's cheeks, and she took a cautionary step away from them both, unsure of what was happening and why such a barb would be leveled at her for no reason.
That her oldest friend had failed to write to her and tell her of his betrothal was a point she would discuss with him alone, but to be insulted for no reason, well, that was uncalled for.
Heidi looked to Levinstone, waiting for him to defend her as he always had in the past, but nothing was forthcoming. He stood there, his eyes averted from hers. She ground her teeth, biting back the caustic remark of coward she wanted to throw at his head.
"Smithers," Levinstone called, the butler coming over immediately. "Take the loaf of herb-buttered bread to the kitchens, thank you," he ordered.
Heidi handed over the bread her mama had spent hours baking, using funds already scarce to gift something to his lordship, who had always been a kind and welcome friend to their home. What was wrong with him?
"I see I have come at a busy time. The ball is this evening, and we're very excited to attend," Heidi mentioned, smiling at several maids who moved about the house, finishing their chores before the evening guests arrived. "When would you like to hang the wreath, my lord?" she asked, meeting Lady Emma's eye. "It is tradition, you see," she explained. "I always help his lordship hang the wreath, and then the Christmas festivities can truly begin in earnest."
Lady Emma chuckled. "I'm hanging the wreath this year with my darling betrothed. I'm sorry, but as the future lady of the house, it is my right, of course," she spat, the lady's false smile slipping into a scowl.
"Oh, of course," Heidi replied, unsure what else she could say. The heat on her cheeks increased, and for a moment, she thought about bolting out the door and running home like a coward.
"We also, unfortunately, have to rescind your invitation. The ball this evening is a practice for our wedding breakfast, and I oversee who will attend. And as I do not know you well, it is best that you do not attend. Attending a ball with so many people you do not know will only make you uncomfortable. But you will have the pleasure of the company of your own family, will you not?" Lady Emma said, the false smile back on her angelic features.
The woman was no angel. She was the devil's spawn. Had Heidi known her an hour or five years, she doubted her opinion of her would have altered. How could Levinstone not see how horrible she was? And to one of his oldest friends.
"You do not wish for me to attend, Matthew?" she asked him, wanting to hear from his lips what his choice would be. Tears welled in her eyes, and she fought not to show emotion, but it was too late. The pain of such a statement thrown against her was the final blow in this awful reunion with her friend after many months apart.
"Matthew? Oh, my dear, you must not be so familiar. It is Lord Levinstone to you. His is your better, not your equal."
Heidi did not look at Lady Emma. She deserved no such respect, not after her cruel and hurtful words. She stared at Levinstone, and only after what felt like several minutes did he meet her gaze.
"Is that what you wish, my lord?" she asked again, watching him as he debated her question.
At length, he nodded. "I think you should return home before the day grows colder. Please thank your mama for the bread. I shall be sure to enjoy it."
Lady Emma scoffed but did not say anything further, and with nothing more to be said between them, Heidi turned on her heel and strode from the hall, the shocked, disappointed visage of Smithers the last thing that swam in her vision.
Tears slipped down her cheeks as she returned to the village, for what had been a day of celebration, expectation, and joyful tidings was no more.
Her dearest friend was betrothed to the devil herself, and there would be no friendship from this day forward. He had allowed his fiancée to belittle and demean her, and to her face no less.
That, in Heidi's estimation, was no friend at all.
Only an enemy.

Main Tropes

  • Past Love
  • Christmas Romance
  • Regency Romance
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