Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A London Christmas! Roxanne Rustand

My husband and I spent a few weeks in Ireland and England three years ago, and then went to Scottish Highlands the following year. I love the U.K.---the incredible museums, beautiful old churches and charming villages.  I so want to go back!

This year marks our third Sweet Christmas Kisses anthology.  For the first one in 2014, I wrote A Scottish Christmas, for the second one in 2015 my novella was An Irish Christmas Blessing,  and for our 2016 collection I wrote A  London Christmas. Each was an opportunity to enjoy those countries all over again, and I hope you will enjoy the stories!  Here is the first chapter of A London Christmas.


Cait Walker stepped out of the cab in front of the pub and stared at the gold lettered sign over the door. Smythe & Killigan's. Established 1743.

This had to be the place, though she could hardly believe she was actually here.

Just a few blocks from Buckingham Palace, the building was built of large, rough stones, the glass in the mullioned windows deeply rippled with age. An Irish tune wafted out into the snowy night, sending a little shiver down her back. After waiting three long months for this, she was finally in London--excited and nervous and even a little scared. What if she didn't measure up to Derek's expectations? What if he took one look at her and backed out?

She knew she was hardly the stuff of anyone's dreams.  She'd lost her job a few months ago, after the company folded, but would soon start working in a lab at the University of Minnesota by day, and by night she would continue writing poetry and short stories that no one else would ever see.

She was just an ordinary woman leading an ordinary, quiet life in Minnesota with her cat Murphy, who was now vacationing at her mom's retirement village in Minnetonka.

What made this evening even more spectacular was that she'd been totally honest when creating her profile on the dating website. No sugar coating, no wishful thinking about any details that might make her seem special, and her photo showed the same person she saw in the mirror every day, without any extra photographer's retouching.  It was still hard to believe that someone like Derek Worthington III had actually fallen for her. Her.

At the age of thirty-four she had no longer dreamed of white knights and fairytales, or the possibility of finding true love.  And yet...there he was, in that first glorious e-mail. 

Charming and dashing and handsome, he'd been emailing her for months now, and they'd even talked on the phone twice. And oh, that lovely accent and deep voice...Downton Abbey and Jane Austen's heroes, all wrapped in one delicious package and tied with a perfect bow. For her.

Tonight, after they'd had some time to talk--for the first time ever, without thousands of miles between them--he was taking her to meet his family for Christmas Eve. And after Christmas Day, they would have three incredibly romantic weeks, traveling to his favorite--favourite --places in England while they planned what the future would bring.

 She tingled with anticipation, knowing that her life was about to change in ways she'd never even dreamed of.

Dusting the snow from her shoulders, she smoothed a loose tendril of hair into the knot on the top of her head, took a deep breath, and dragged her carry-on luggage into the pub, her heart hammering. This was it. This was really, truly going to be the most memorable day of her life.

The heavy door was beautifully carved and felt ancient beneath her fingertips. Was it rosewood? An image of the generations of people who had touched this same door over the centuries flashed through her thoughts, the rich sense of history filling her with delight.

The long mirror behind the bar was framed in the same dark, rich, ornately carved wood as the door. It glowed under the dim amber light of the tall lamps sitting at either end of the bar and the stained glass lamps that hung from the ceiling.

Most of the small tables inside were occupied by couples sitting intimately close, talking over glasses of wine or those tall, trademark Guinness beer glasses with the engraved harp on the back.

She glanced at her watch and felt a flicker of alarm.

The only men sitting alone were a hefty older man who was fidgeting with his keys and scowling as he talked on his cell phone, and a scruffy guy--possibly in his mid-thirties. 

This second fellow gave Cait a cursory glance, then turned his attention back to his fish and chips. The young woman sitting across from him abruptly stood, slammed her hands on the table, and flounced out the door. He didn’t spare her another look.

Though Cait couldn't make out his features beneath the bill of his blue and red Chicago Cubs ball cap, his hair was much too dark and shaggy. Definitely not Derek.

Derek certainly wouldn't have been with another woman. And he wouldn't have been so dismissive at seeing Cait arrive, because of course he had seen her photograph and even kept it on his bedside table. He was all that was thoughtful, charming and kind, and his emails had proved it.

She took another glance around the room. Was she late? Early? Had she misunderstood? Oh, Lord--was she in the wrong place?

Of course, he could have been delayed at his research facility. The roads were snow-covered and slick, and the snow falling outside was growing heavier. Could he have been in an accident? Worry nipped at her as she settled down at a table near the door so she could watch for any newcomers.

The minutes ticked by, each lasting an hour.

Couples came and went. A few business-types.

She glanced at her watch again. Finally, her stomach growling, she flagged down the lone waitress and ordered fish and chips plus an ice water.

The door creaked, letting in a blast of cold air. Someone hesitated in the door and then cast a shadow over her table. Her heart tripped, her hands grew clammy.

"You're Catriona Walker?"

A deep voice, a wonderful British accent.  The only person in England who could possibly know her name, even if this voice sounded a little different than the one she'd heard over the phone.  Derek.

Her heart took a tiny leap of anticipation as she slowly turned. But when she looked up, a sense of disorientation swept through her.

Her Derek was tall and broad-shouldered, with sharply cut, patrician features and thick blond hair swept straight back, revealing a high forehead, sweeping eyebrows and piercing blue eyes. One of his photos on the dating website showed him in a beautifully cut suit, leaning against a sports car, with a sexy half-smile on his lean face.

This man was decades older--probably as old as her dad--with a heavy belly, thick jowls and thinning dishwater blonde hair coiffed into an ornate comb-over that did nothing to camouflage his shiny scalp. He was eyeing her with a calculating look that made her skin crawl.

He had to be a messenger, sent to explain Derek's delay. Her rising tension eased. "Y-yes, yes I am. And you are...?"

He had the audacity to look affronted. "Derek."


Best wishes to you all!  I hope you enjoy this year's anthology!

Roxanne Rustand
USA Today Bestselling Author

Falling for the Rancher, Love Inspired   6/2017

An Aspen Creek Christmas, Love Inspired   12/2016

The Single Dad's Redemption, Love Inspired 7/2016