Christmas At Home


Mrs. Burgess dried the last dish and put it away. “It’s getting late. Why don’t the two of you head over to the club downtown? Or, I heard the USO is having a farewell party for some of the men ready to be deployed. Several bands are supposed to be there tonight.”

When Allison shook her head, Mrs. Burgess persisted. “You both deserve a night out. Since Becca’s already here, she can spend the night in one of the girls’ old rooms upstairs until you get home.”

Taken aback, Allison looked around the huge home. It was elegant. Certainly out of her league. She didn’t belong here. Didn’t belong with Ryan. Why had he insisted she come here today? She was a nobody, while his family was…wealthy.

“That’s a great idea,” she heard him say before she could speak. “We won’t stay out late. Just long enough to listen to some music and relax a bit.”

“No, I couldn’t possibly do that. I need to get Becca home now. We’ve inconvenienced you all too much as it is.”

“You’ve been no inconvenience, dear. We’ve loved having the two of you visit. I hope you’ll come back often.”

Returning with her coat and Ryan’s overcoat, Mr. Burgess handed them both to Ryan. “Make sure you bundle up now. It’s mighty cold out there. Mother, I don’t see a neck scarf for the young lady. Do you have one she can borrow?”

While Ryan helped with her coat, his mother quickly returned with a long cashmere neck scarf. Ryan took it and wrapped it gently around Allison’s neck. “There, that’s better.”

Allison just stood there, her mouth open. She’d never felt anything so luxurious. “But I can’t—”

“Certainly you can, dear. I’m not going out this evening. I’m happy to let you borrow it.” She glanced over at her husband and received the briefest of nods. “In fact, I rarely ever wear that one. It looks lovely on you, so why don’t you keep it?”

“I can’t—”

As Ryan ushered her out the door into the blast of cold air, he laughed. “There sure are a lot of things you seem to think you can’t do. Time to start thinking of what you can.”

Out at the curb, he stopped beside the family’s two year old Packard. “I wish I could drive us there.” He patted his leg with his gloved hand. “But with this leg I can’t work the clutch. It’s too cold to walk. How about we take the trolley?”

At her agreement, they headed to the nearest trolley tracks. Placing his cane over his arm, he helped Allison up and then pulled himself onto the first step. As they sat and rode toward the center of town, he eased his arm along the back of the seat. “Why don’t you move closer? It’s cold in here and I don’t want you to catch a chill.”

Allison glared at him. “Is your family always so bossy?”

Ryan laughed, a deep guttural sound. He hadn’t done that in ages. Not since his plane had crashed into the barrier and the world as he’d known it had changed. It felt good.

“Well, yes, as a matter of fact they are. Most of the time. It’s one of the things I love about them. They know what they want and go after it.”

He pulled her closer. “When I was overseas, I watched men open parcels from home. Some got bars of soap, powder, maybe a sweater or a muffler. Simple things, but it meant the world to them. Meant home. I, on the other hand, came home to a fancy house while many of those men died. But I didn’t appreciate it. I thought my life was over. Merely because my leg hurts and I limp. I thought no one would ever want me. Thought I’d never want anything—anyone—ever again.”

When the trolley stopped near the club, he exited, then helped Allison down the steps. Strains of Duke Ellington filtered out into the cold night air.

“Until I met you.”

He turned her toward him. “But instead of making me feel good, I felt worse. Oh sure, there was plenty in this world to live for—but I’d never have it.”

“That’s silly, Ryan. You have everything to live for. What could you have possibly wanted that you thought you couldn’t—”

He placed a finger over her lips. “You.”

At her gasp, he continued. “I wanted you, Alli. Wanted to hold you in my arms. Wanted to feel your sweet lips against mine. Wanted to make love to you all night. But I knew it would never happen. You’d never want me. I’m no longer whole. I’m damaged goods.”

“But Ryan—”

“Then I changed my mind. Remembered I’m a Burgess. We go after what we want. Claim it. Take it.” He eased his hand around the back of her neck. “I’m going after you, Alli Morgan. Prepare yourself for that. I’m claiming you as my own. And some day I’m going to take you. For now I’ll woo you. Win your heart. And I’m going to start by kissing you.”

He moved his mouth within an inch of hers, a smile tilting up his lips. “What’s this? No argument? You’re not going to tell me you can’t?”

Her eyes met his. Never wavered. “No.”

His lips met hers. Gently. Sweetly. His tongue brushed her closed lips, urging them to open. When they did, he thrust his tongue inside, claiming what he’d wanted for the past month. What he planned to have for the rest of his life.

Allison moaned. His hand brushed over her hair, eased a tendril behind her ear. He hugged her close. Moved his hand up and down the column of her back. Lust shot straight to his groin. He’d worried his injury might have messed up more than his leg. Allison’s body pressed to his proved that wasn’t so. He could make love to her—and some day he would. Of that he no longer had any doubt. He moved his hand inside her coat and brushed it over her plain, cotton blouse. The tip of her breast hardened instantly under his fingertips. Just as he’d hardened holding her.

He groaned. If he didn’t stop now, he might not be able to. He wouldn’t behave like a rutting stag. Gathering what little control he had left, he pulled back. Looked at Allison’s very kissable mouth and had to close his eyes and count to ten. Mercy, but he wanted her.

Helping straighten her coat, Ryan held his arm out for her and headed for the club. They waited their turn to enter. Bing Crosby’s Moonlight Becomes You lilted through the door each time it opened. The song was right. She was beautiful, and the moonlight glinting off her silky, auburn hair had him wanting to run his hands through it. Wanting to run his hands over every inch of her body.

©2006 Leanne L. Burroughs



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