On the morning of December 24th the VenDel house was all in a frenzy, tonight was the annual Christmas party and everyone was determined to look their best. While Mr. VenDel was searching for his gold cuff-links; Mrs. VenDel was busy adjusting her daughter's corset: "Oh Rose how do you expect me to properly lace this up when you won't stand still"?
"But Mother it's too tight, I can't breath"!
"Oh shush, you're fine...just think of how beautiful you'll look tonight. Maybe a handsome young man will take a fancy to you".
"Mother the last thing I want to do is give Henry another reason to fantasize about me".
"I wasn't talking about Henry; I was talking about the possibility of another young man taking a liking to you".
"What do you mean by that"?
"Oh, well you have to keep an open mind. There's bound to be someone else who would ask for your hand, make you his bride, bless you with a dozen children or so..."
"I think I understand what you are getting at: you want me to get married right away so that I can start producing grandchildren for you...is that it"?
"Now Rose I want you to be happy but you have to understand that your Father and I are not getting any younger and we want to see our grandchildren before we go".
"Mother I don't want to be pressured into all this. I want to get married but I don't want to settle for someone I'm not in love with".
"I never said that you had to settle, I just want you to find someone while you're still young".
"Oh I'm not worried about that right now but I can see what you are trying to imply and I understand your concern; however, I would appreciate it if we discuss this topic another day".
"Very well Rose, you've made your point. We will continue this conversation later", with a slight tug of the string Mrs. VenDel tightened her daughter's corset and left the room.
Later that evening the VenDel's arrived at the Christmas party and began to partake in the festivities. Mr. and Mrs. VenDel conversed with their hosts while Rose mingled with some of the other guests. It wasn't long before she caught Henry's eye. He walked over to her with a sly grin on his face, "So the lovely Rose decided to grace me with her presence after all. I'm glad to see that you were able to attend the celebration".
She smiled and responded in a sarcastic tone, "Why Henry, you should know by now that the only reason I attend these social events is to be closer to you".
"Well I should hope so", he grabbed her by the waist, "Because the way I'm feeling right now, I'd prefer it if you were close to me".
"You know I was being sarcastic, right"?
"Oh I know you were and you should know that tongue of yours will get you into trouble one of these days but until then I'd love to see you use it".
She loosened herself from his grasp, then slapped him in the face. As she turned around to storm off, he grabbed her wrist and yanked her back over towards him, "Now that was a big mistake".
"You deserved it"!
"Did I now"?
"Yes, I'm just sorry I waited so long to do that to you".
He gave her a menacing glare, "You'll regret that one of these days, Rose".
"We'll see about that".
"Indeed we will", he turned around and walked away, leaving her standing alone in the hallway.
A few minutes later there was a knock at the door; to which the butler answered and welcomed the new guest into the house: he stepped inside the mansion (unnoticed by the other guests) and walked over to where Rose was standing, "Ah, Miss VenDel tis a pleasure to see you again".
She turned around and smiled at the figure before her (she knew it was James in disguise and decided to play the *recently acquainted* act), "Good evening Mr. *Harrington*, I'm glad you were able to attend the celebration".
He winked and played along with the act, "Yes, I arrived in town recently and decided to stop by for a visit".
"And I'm so very glad you did".
"As am I", he gently took her hand and kissed it.
She blushed and gave him a smile. Henry saw their conversation and decided to confront them, "Excuse me good sir, but I believe we have not met. I am Henry Orman and I would like to know who you are and how you know my Rose".
"My apologies sir, my name is James *Harrington* and I was not under any impression that this charming young lady was already spoken for".
"Well, she happens to be my betrothed".
"Ah I see, then my congratulations to the both of you...Now back to your question: I met Miss VenDel a few months ago when I was passing through town. We shared a pleasant conversation together before I headed off and up until tonight, I haven't seen her since" (he didn't want to bring up their *true* relationship. Instead he continued his act to fool everyone).
Henry glared over at him, "Well as long as you know your place while you're here Mr. Harrington. I expect you to keep your distance from my lovely Rose. Do I make myself clear"?
James gave a nod, "Indeed you do sir, I'll do my best to avoid her".
"See that you do", he placed an arm around Rose and kissed her cheek before joining the other guests.
James gave her a smile, "So that was Henry Orman".
She nodded her head and looked up at him, "Yes, that was him".
"My condolences to you".
She smiled, "Thanks. Don't believe what he says about our betrothal, it's not true".
"I never thought it was. I simply wanted to humor him and give him the impression that I would stay away from you".
"Oh you are a sly one, Mr. *Harrington*".
"I try to be, Miss VenDel".
She smiled, then glanced over towards the cellar door, then back at him. He gave a nod and winked at her before taking her by the hand and leading her down into the cellar. Once they reached the bottom step, James and Rose wrapped their arms around one another and shared a passionate kiss. He then pressed her against the wall and softly began biting her neck while she fumbled to get his ring off. He gently grabbed her hand, "I'm not sure that's a good idea".
"Why not? I just want to kiss *your* face and experience this moment with *you*".
"I understand, but just in case we're discovered I'd rather be in this form instead of my *true* form".
"Good point", she moved her hands up to his shoulders while he moved his down to her waist. Their lips interlocked while their hands explored one another and soon they began removing pieces of their clothing. After a few minutes they stood before one another, wearing nothing but their undergarments. Rose looked up into his face and smiled, "James do you think we're taking this too far? I don't want to make you uncomfortable".
He brushed her cheek, "Rose you're not making me uncomfortable. I want this, I really do; but I am willing to wait if you're not ready and I don't want to pressure you into something that you're not ready for".
"Don't worry, you're not pressuring me. I want this as much as you do...I wish to give myself to you, James".
"And I to you, Rose", he softly brushed her cheek before running his fingers down her neck. A few minutes later, they managed to remove the rest of their clothing (Rose had even let her hair down so that it hung past her shoulders). They looked at one another for a moment before James broke the silence: "You look amazing".
She blushed, "So do you...even if you're in a disguise".
He ran his fingers through her hair, "Oh trust me, if we were somewhere else I'd be bare boned right now".
She let out a soft laugh, "I wouldn't doubt that for a second".
James looked at her up and down, focusing his attention on her chest then glancing back up into her eyes, "May I"?
She smiled and brushed her hair to the side, allowing him easier access, "Go ahead".
He reached out and touched her chest (feeling her heart beating from underneath his fingers): she was very warm and soft. He then ran his hands along her tiny waist (memorizing every curve on her body). They then ended up on the floor and gave into their overwhelming urges. Aside from her heart beating faster, Rose felt her body tremble with passion while James felt his spine tingle. They stayed interlocked with one another for over an hour (taking it slow at first, then picking up the pace once they had the motion down. They were careful not to make too much noise, for fear of drawing attention to their situation). Afterwards, they laid next to each other hand-in-hand and smiled. Rose let out an exhausted sigh as she ran her fingers across his chest, "James that was amazing".
He smiled and brushed her cheek, "I agree, it was".
"Do you think anyone heard us"?
"I doubt it. With all the noise from the party and the other guests, I don't think they would have heard us from down here".
"I hope you're right...but then again, if they heard us, someone would have come down here to investigate".
"Exactly, so we don't need to worry anymore; however, it might be a good idea to head back upstairs in case someone is wondering where you are".
"Good idea. It might also be wise if we went separately. If we returned to the party together then the others might get suspicious".
"Sounds like a plan", and with that, the two of them adorned their clothing. Rose headed upstairs to join the festivity while James lingered in the shadows. She quietly opened the cellar door and looked to see if anyone was near. When the are was clear, she stepped out and walked over towards the ballroom where she blended into the crowd. James waited a few minutes before he re-joined the party: no one seemed to notice that he left. Meanwhile, Henry walked up to Rose and placed a firm hand on her shoulder, "So tell me Rose, where were you for the last hour or so"?
An icy chill went down her spine, "I was off visiting other guests".
"Interesting, because I don't remember seeing you with anyone else other than that James fella...is there something I should know about"?
"My business is none of your concern".
"Oh but it is. If you are going to be my bride, I expect you to be honest with me".
"You know damn well that I have no intention of becoming your bride"!
"We shall see". After Henry left, Rose walked over towards the parlor room and found her parents engaged in a conversation with James. She stood at the doorway and listened to what they were saying. From what she could hear, her parents really seemed to like James (she even heard her Father laugh, which was a rare occurrence). They talked for what seemed like an hour before leaving the room to join the other guests. Rose stepped away from the door and greeted her parents as they walked out, "Good evening Mother, Father, I hope you two have been enjoying the festivities as much as I have".
"Oh indeed we have. In fact, your Father and I just shared a pleasant conversation with a very charming young man by the name of James Harrington. He says that you two know each other"?
"Yes we do. I met him a few months ago while on a errand".
"Well he spoke very highly of you...might be that he's taken a fancy to you".
She blushed, "Do you think so"?
"Oh I wouldn't doubt it".
She smiled then looked over at her Father, "What do you think of him"?
He glanced over at his daughter with a warm smile on his face, "I like him, he's a good chap. He'd make a fine husband for you my dear".
Rose's heart filled with joy after hearing those words. She couldn't believe that he would even consider another suitor for her, since he had his heart set on her marrying into the Orman family. She then went off to tell James the good news to which he responded with a delighted smile on his face. As they relished in their happiness, Rose noticed a piece of mistletoe handing above their heads: she wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a kiss, to which he responded by mimicking her actions. When their kiss broke, they looked into each others eyes and smiled.
"Merry Christmas, James".