A New Tradition


"I wasn't certain you'd accept my invitation to play croquet this afternoon," Morgan teased as Abigail lined up her ball to hit it through the wicket. Hitting it perfectly with her mallet, she shot him what she hoped was a casual smile. In truth, she felt anything but.

"And why wouldn't I?" she queried, trying her best to sound unaffected by his nearness as her ball landed right next to his. "Although in truth I believe it was my mother that accepted for both of us. She thinks I spend too much time in my room reading." Her heart thumped loudly as he placed a hand lightly on her lower back and moved her toward the area where their croquet balls now lay. No doubt he and everyone around them heard it beating. Her knees felt weak as his hand touched her. Thoughts of being in his arms the night before touched the periphery of her mind. "We'd been thinking of trying the game for several days now."

"After I told you the story about the ghost in a nearby tavern, I thought I had scared you away."

"That nonsense you told me when we left the restaurant? I don't scare easily, sir. And didn't believe a word of it." She chuckled. "While it was a delightful story, you cannot seriously tell me you thought I would believe such a tale. Women in green dresses floating down anon-existent staircase? A man appearing on a white horse?" She quirked her brow, showing him she'd have none of it. "And then to try and convince me that was the army scout you tried to tell me about."

"Simply repeating what Brighton told me as we walked to the Grand Union for lunch." The smile lighting his face told her he jested. "In actuality, I wanted to share the story since you wore such a beautiful green dress last night."

Abigail cocked a brow. "Are you saying I haunt people?"

He chuckled. "No, I would never intimate such a thing." Although you haunt my thoughts, make me think of you, every minute I'm not with you. "And I believe you don't frighten easily. Someone with such strong convictions as yours would not faint away at the first hint of the unknown."

She tilted her head to watch him. "Am I to take that as a compliment, sir?"

"Of course. That is how I meant it. I cannot imagine another person I know doing what you did for your friend. I find your concern and thoughtfulness far above what a usual friend would do."

She pursed her lips, then said, "If Matthew needed something, would you not help him?" "Of course," he answered promptly, "but that's different."

"Why?" she shot back. "Because you're a man?"

Lining his ball up to soundly hit her ball with his, Morgan stopped. "That's ridiculous. That has nothing to do with…" Again he stopped. Took a deep breath. "I apologize. When you're right, you are right. And that is exactly what I was thinking. I suppose that's something Mrs. Stanton taught you?"

"No, it is something I always felt, but it is something they agree with. As I told you before, many of their ideas have merit."

He didn't say anything, but turned his attention back to the game. Tapping his ball soundly with his mallet, he sent her ball straight into the woods at the side of the playing field. Her eyes flew up to meet his. The smug smirk that touched his lips spoke loud and clear. He dared her to go into the woods—out of eyeshot of the ever-surrounding chaperones. Never one to back down from a dare, Abigail marched quickly to the woods.

And found herself pulled into very strong arms. Arms that wrapped themselves around her. Arms she melted into.

As Morgan Leighton's lips lowered to hers, Abigail didn't pull away. She might be damned to Perdition for this, but she wanted to know exactly what this man's lips tasted like. Wanted to feel the passion for the first time. Passion that would have to last her the rest of her life.

When he raised his head, Abigail's knees weakened. Only his strong arms held her upright. She'd met her soul mate. Unfortunately she doubted he felt the same. A man like him preferred a lady to be simple and uncomplicated. With her there would be tangles of unconventional thoughts—as they'd just discussed. And they were all interwoven with the part of her she'd honestly thought she'd never give away—her heart.

As footsteps approached, Morgan bent down and brushed his lips lightly against hers, then stepped aside and pretended to be searching for her lost croquet ball. "I believe it's over this way, Miss Sommers," he said just as one of the hotel's hired chaperones entered the thicket.

With heated cheeks, Abigail tried to focus her attention toward the ground, hoping the unwanted woman couldn't see her face. "So it is, Mister Leighton. Thank you so much for helping me find it—although I wouldn't have had to search for it if you hadn't sent it into the woods in the first place."

Morgan nodded to the hired staff person as he strode from the woods as though being caught out of hand with a young woman occurred every day. A tug at her heart said maybe it did.

©2008 Leanne L. Burroughs

short story from Flames of Gold




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