Excerpt from The Promise of Christmas Forevermore: A Mackinac Island Novella

1899, Mackinac Island, Michigan

With anticipation already built up within her, the moment Amelia stepped out of the cold and into the warmth of the Grand Hotel, her heart pitter-pattered with the thrill of what she was about to do. Mister Rutherford “Buck” Buchanan stood just inside the door greeting his guests.

She homed in on him, lifting her chin, relaxing her shoulders, and breathing deeply to accentuate her beguiling decolletage. It worked. His eyes veered away from the young woman in front of him and landed on her. She smiled brilliantly. He nodded with a sly grin.

This might be easier than she’d ever imagined.

After a long and festive dinner, with lively conversation and rowdy revelers, he approached Amelia. “Perhaps we could find a quieter spot.” He said it with such aplomb it seemed clear he assumed Amelia wanted a private conversation as much as he did. He was right.

“Yes. Please.”

Neither of them bothered to glance back to notice that half the people in the room stared at them out of curiosity. Buck took Amelia’s elbow and guided her into a small parlor and closed the door.

The fire had not been lit in that room, but warmth from the dining room next door filtered in to make it tolerable. Still, Buck took off his jacket and settled it on Amelia’s shoulders. Without speaking, they went to the windows to take in the view once again.

“Do you mind?” he asked, pulling a cigar out of the pocket of the jacket she now wore. “I admit, I’ve been waiting to partake.”

“No, I don’t mind at all.” She truly didn’t mind, pleased that he felt comfortable enough with her to engage in something he enjoyed. “I like the smell of cigars. My father and grandfather smoke them on occasion.”

He lit it with a match, took a long puff, and blew the smoke away from her. “So what do you make of all this?” He gestured around the room with cigar in hand, causing smoke to swirl around them.

Amelia inhaled the scent she associated with manliness and it struck her that she liked this Rutherford “Buck” Buchanan much more than she’d anticipated. “Make of this?” she asked.

“I’ve arranged this entire affair so that we could properly meet. I thought your birthday would be the perfect time for me to ask if I may court you, Miss McIntyre.”

Ah, there it was. He wanted to “court” her. She wanted more.

“Please, call me Amelia. If we’re going to ‘court,’ we need to go by our first names.”

She liked the way he studied her, smoke twirling up toward the ceiling as he puffed away on his cigar.

“I assume that means I have your permission,” he said.

“You assume correctly, perhaps. There are a few things we need to discuss first.”

“Such as?”

“I don’t intend to waste my time on a man who doesn’t want to marry.”

He chuckled in a way that indicated he felt entirely sure of himself. He sauntered over to the fireplace, stumped out his cigar on the inside brick, and set it on the mantle. When he came back to her, he stared her in the eyes, took her hands in his, and said, “You needn’t worry about that. I want to marry you.”

Amelia’s heart soared. She had to calm herself to finish what she wanted to say to be sure this bargain would give her everything she desired.

“You don’t know me,” she noted.

“We can get to know each other later. Besides, I know what you want. I ascertained that from all the gossip I’ve heard about the renowned attorney’s daughter who’s rejected every offer of courtship she’s ever been presented with. You want money, and I have it. When I saw you last summer – yes, I saw you in the park and you didn’t so much as glance my way – when I saw you there, I knew you were the one for me. I’ve been finagling a plausible way to meet you ever since.”

“I see.” She let go with one hand, still holding the other, and ran her fingers along his cravat, a simple gesture that excited her. “So you’re saying that you know I want to marry you for your money, and I know you want to marry me for my … what would you call it?”

He chuckled. “Well, certainly for your feminine wiles. But it’s more than that. You’re independent. Your refusal to snatch up a handy marriage proposal proves that. And you’re smart. I think you have a loving heart, as well. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be so close to your family. And, I must admit, if you’re anything like the women in your family, I can’t imagine ever being bored. I want a companion, Amelia, not just a showpiece.”

“That’s quite a great compliment. Thank you. I’ll do my best to live up to it. If we marry, there must be no other women.”

His eyes twinkled in merriment. “Pfft. I assure you, there will be no others. You will be more than enough to keep me, shall we say, a contented husband. Now, as long as we’re setting up rules for our marriage, I have one, too.”

“What might that be?”

“I will provide you with whatever you desire within the limits of my financial status, which I admit is considerable, but it is not a bottomless pit. I work hard for every dime I make. I trust you will respect that. I will build a home in Detroit as you like it. I will build or buy you a cottage here on the island if you wish. We will travel as often as my work allows if that is your desire. I’ll buy you a giant diamond engagement ring. We can go on an outrageous honeymoon. In return, I expect appreciation in the form of respect and honor.”

She ran a forefinger down his cheek and felt him shutter with delight at her touch. “You need not worry. I will be a faithful and respectful wife. Although, I hope you don’t expect total obedience.”

“I wouldn’t dare.”

“One more thing.”

“There’s more?” he teased, feigning shock. It delighted her that he wasn’t afraid to poke fun at her. In fact, he wasn’t afraid of her at all like her other suiters had been.

“I hope to have children.”

“I will be more than happy to accommodate that.”

Finally, he took her in his arms and they kissed, a coming together so sweet Amelia’s knees almost gave way. They kissed again, more intently, and she thrilled upon realizing that this stranger pleased her immensely.

But there was yet another thing she needed from him. She took a deep breath to clear her head lest she let her body’s heightened state of exhilaration divert her from her most important demand.

They parted and she gazed into his tantalizing eyes.

“There’s one more one-more-thing,” she said.


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