The silence surrounded her like a blanket. Everyone kept as quiet as possible. Only the person’s breathing broke the stillness. It seemed to Diana that he panted a little; his breathing sounded hoarse as if he felt some great emotional strain. The scent was stronger now and haunting her with its fragrance. Where had she smelled it before? Her fingers moved lightly over his chest and shoulders, up to his face, dancing with feathery touches over his features. That distinctive forehead, nose, and chin. It could only be—
Only she heard his voice; a single word that revealed his identity. With her heart pounding, she said coolly, “I do believe it is Sir Gareth.”
She pulled off the blindfold and looked into Sir Gareth’s eyes. Everyone clapped and Lady Prescott said, “Well done, my dear. Although I do believe Sir Gareth did not run away as quickly as he might have done, the naughty boy. Now, Mr. Whittaker, it is your turn.”
The guests would not be denied their prize.
“Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!” they chorused.
Diana stood like a statue. She could hardly move. His gaze was mesmerising. Sir Gareth looked down at her, his face stern.
“Well, Miss Dashwood,” he murmured, “will you rise to the challenge? Will you kiss me under the mistletoe in front of everyone? Miss Dalton managed to catch Mr. Crane easily enough and we all know why.”
He looked up; she followed his gaze and spied the cluster of dark green leaves with red berries. She had quite forgotten about the mistletoe. How infuriating and smug he was to insinuate she was so desperate to kiss him a parlour game was her only means. How dare he compare her to that silly Drusilla Dalton? Well, she would show him and everyone else just how much he did not matter to her. She would not be humiliated by old gossip being raked up. Diana kissed the fingertips on her right hand and pressed them onto his lips.
“There,” she said, twirling around in a flourish to face the others. “A Christmas kiss for Sir Gareth and that’s as much as he deserves from me.”
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