Martha Keyes was born, raised, and educated in Utah–a home she loves dearly but also dearly loves to escape whenever she can by traveling the world. She received a BA in French Studies and a Master of Public Health, both from Brigham Young University.
Word crafting has always fascinated and motivated her, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that she considered writing her own stories. When she isn’t writing, she is honing her photography skills, looking for travel deals, and spending time with her family. She lives with her husband and twin boys in Vineyard, Utah.
He jilted her sister. She will never forgive him for it. Can her anger survive a snowing in and a Christmas truce?
Emma Caldwell doesn’t hate anyone—except for Hugh Warrilow, the man who jilted her older sister and left like a coward to join the army. Men are clearly not to be trusted, and Emma is determined not to give her heart to one. No, a marriage of convenience is the very thing to suit her.
Hugh Warrilow has been secretly in love with Emma Caldwell for years, so when the time comes to live up to both families’ expectations and marry her sister, he can’t find it in himself to do it. Disgraced and misunderstood, he joins to fight Napoleon on the Continent, hoping he will forget Emma and be forgotten by everyone he has disappointed.
An injury brings Hugh home—just in time for Christmas and the snowstorm that leaves him trapped under the same roof as Emma. How will he explain that his unforgivable act was motivated by how desperately he loved her? Her icy reception doesn’t leave him the chance, nor does it offer much hope for the season’s expectation of peace on earth and goodwill to men. “.
He paused in front of the portrait of his grandfather, clasping his hands behind him out of habit, just as he had always done in his grandfather’s company. Even in the portrait, the man stood erect, grave, and precise—just as Hugh remembered him. “A man is only as good as his word,” he would always say. “Better to lose one’s life than to lose one’s honor.”
Those words had reverberated in Hugh’s mind night and day during his convalescence. He had hoped to regain in battle the honor he had lost by abandoning the marriage his family had hoped for. But instead, he had found himself holding his dying friend in his arms—a friend who had sacrificed his life to save Hugh; a friend without whom the ball in Hugh’s shoulder would have been a ball in his chest. Seymour had died to save a man with no honor; a man not worth saving.
Footsteps sounded down the corridor, muffled by the long gallery rug, and Hugh looked over, his swallow catching in his throat as his gaze met the form of Emma. Hugh bowed. “Excuse me, Miss Caldwell,” he said, moving to walk around her and out of the gallery. His shoulder brushed hers as he rushed to pass her.
“Please stop,” she said.
Hugh froze, then turned slowly. He didn’t know if he had the energy to endure criticism from Emma at the moment. His grandfather’s eyes had already condemned him enough.
She was looking at him, her hands clasped in front of her chest, thumbs fiddling. “Have you absented yourself from the drawing room for my sake?” she said.
“It is no trouble,” he said, inclining his head, forcing a smile, and then turning again to leave.
“It is quite unnecessary,” she said, and he paused again.
What did she want from him? To force him to face his reprehensible actions by requiring him to face her anger?
She swallowed, and her chin came up slightly. “Surely we can manage to lay down our weapons in a temporary truce for Christmas.”
He smiled wryly. What weapons did she believe him to be wielding? Surely his position was one of defense rather than attack.
“I don’t wish,” she continued, “to sully the season’s memories for your family by causing a rift at a time of year where goodwill is meant to reign.”
“So,” he said slowly, the corners of his lips turned down in a thoughtful frown, “you wish to pretend to feelings you don’t have?”
She gripped her lips together. “If you insist on describing it in such a manner.”
He stared down into her eyes, scanning them. What was he to make of this offer? Was it an olive branch, however reluctantly offered? Or would it result in even greater resentment on her behalf, as her anger toward him festered under the pretense of civility? “How would you describe it?”
Her mouth twisted to the side, and she tried to suppress a smile.
“Pretending to feelings you don’t have?” he suggested.
She laughed, and his muscles relaxed at the sight of her smile, his heart skipping at the sound of her laugh.
“I suppose so,” she said.
He sighed. How would it feel to have Emma look at him with anything but spite?