Day 8: The Duchess’s Christmas Wish

misteltoe

Welcome to the 8LW 25 Days of Stories.  Today we’ve got a mischievous dowager duchess and a reluctant widower earl in 1870s England, along with some pesky mistletoe.  This “Christmas Week Short Story Challenge” — a holiday version of our Friday Writing Sprints — features (some if not all) of the following words: snuggle, impress, mask, collapse, icicle, regret, famous, sneeze, scandalous, spark, impulse, and fantasy.

So here, courtesy of 8L Nancy, is today’s story.

The Duchess’s Christmas Wish

Bennett Fairbank, Earl of Sandalwood, stood in front of the newly-stoked hearth in the study of his son-in-law’s country house and hoped very hard he had not allowed his beloved daughter Lucinda to marry badly. He’d been about to ask her about the inattentiveness and slowness of the servants in her new home when the maid had finally arrived with tea service.

“I’m so sorry.” Lucinda reached for his hands as soon as the maid had left the room and finally stood still long enough for Bennett to kiss her cheek. “We’ve had to hire so many new staff so quickly, what with fifteen guests arriving for the weekend, and Christmas preparations well underway.”

“I’d have thought your husband would have had a full staff ready for his new bride.”

Lucinda squeezed his hands. “Daddy, don’t—”

“Lady Lucinda, here you are!” A familiar voice grated on Bennett’s ears.

The Dowager Duchess of Bridgehampton sailed into the room, bringing with her a blast of cold air from the hallway that reminded Bennett of the long icicles hanging from the eaves, one more task unattended. He might have to take the new servants in hand himself. Continue reading

Day 7: Mistletoe and Ivy

mistletoe-and-ivyWelcome to the 8LW 25 Days of Stories.  So far, our stories have included rhinoceroses, villains, celebrations, and love, with settings from Derbyshire to New York.  Today our story location will be “a cabin”, where we’ll be meeting Rob Smith (not his real name).  This “Christmas Week Short Story Challenge” — a holiday version of our Friday Writing Sprints — features (some if not all) of the following words: snuggle, impress, mask, collapse, icicle, regret, famous, sneeze, scandalous, spark, impulse, and fantasy.

So here, courtesy of 8L Jilly, is today’s story.

Mistletoe and Ivy

Rob Smith (not his real name) fixed a large spray of mistletoe to the deer antlers that branched conveniently over the sheepskin rug in front of the log fire. Saving the free world from the bad guys was what he did, three hundred and sixty four days a year. Accepting personal thanks from a single representative of those he saved was his annual gift to himself on the three-hundred-and-sixty-fifth.

This year he had the Ambassador’s daughter to snuggle with. When he’d returned the gorgeous Gina safe and sound to her famous, wealthy and relieved father, she’d made it clear, in scandalous detail, that she wished to reward him in person.

Gina hadn’t been happy he’d made her wait so long, but really, what better time than Christmas to turn that fantasy into reality?

His pager buzzed. Oh, no, you don’t. Not today.

He turned it off.

It turned itself back on and buzzed louder. Continue reading

Day 6: A New Year of Possibilities

© Eldridge Photography

Welcome to the 8LW 25 Days of Stories.  In the the last two stories, we stepped into the past and met Bunny Blavatsky and her magical camera.  Today we’ll be meeting Maggie and finding out whether there is a Happily Ever After in her future, based on the rules from another “Christmas Week Short Story Challenge” — a holiday version of our Friday Writing Sprints — featuring any or all the following words:  New York, Casanova, giraffe, heartbreak, horseback, love, poetry, celebration, faith, velvet, firecracker, and villain.  Extra kudos with sparkles for Christmas references.

So here, courtesy of 8L Elizabeth, is today’s story.

A Year of Possibilities

Maggie knew her time dating Antonio, aka the Manhattan Casanova, was limited, she just hadn’t realized their relationship was over until New York fashion week rolled around.

Gabriella had big dark eyes, legs that went on forever, and a long, thin neck. It was no mystery why she was nicknamed The Giraffe, especially in the leopard print gown she was currently modelling.

Rumor had it she was attempting to break free of an abusive relationship. Antonio never could resist a damsel in distress. During the show, he had eyes only for Gabriella and Maggie doubted he even remembered she was sitting beside him.

After the show they said their goodbyes, she hailed a cab, and that was that; an inauspicious end to what had been a whirlwind affair full of lavish parties, horseback rides through the park, romantic poetry, and thoughtful gifts.

Maggie had met Antonio on an unseasonably cold day in October on the Staten Island Ferry. She had no coat and he offered his. He was an ideal escort – passionate, witty, charming, and generous – but like the real Casanova, he was drawn to the quest for pleasure and sex like a moth to the flame. Continue reading

Day 5: Bunny Blavatsky Arrives in New York

Welcome to the 8LW 25 Days of Stories.  Yesterday we learned how Bunny’s camera became magical and today we’ll be meeting Bunny Blavatsky herself, based on the rules from another “Christmas Week Short Story Challenge” — a holiday version of our Friday Writing Sprints — featuring a short story including any or all the following:  New York, Casanova, giraffe, heartbreak, horseback, love, poetry, celebration, faith, velvet, firecracker, and villain.  Extra kudos with sparkles for Christmas references.

So here, courtesy of 8L Michaeline, is today’s story.

1898 train advertisement with a young mother, her husband, children and a family come to meet them in a horse-drawn sleigh. Christmas Greetings is the banner.

Bunny was not quite so comfortable on the train. She could scarcely contain her excitement about moving to the big city. (I found this at The Old Design Shop. http://olddesignshop.com/2012/12/lake-shore-michigan-southern-railway-christmas-ad/)

Bunny Blavatsky Arrives in New York

I don’t recommend arriving in New York for the first time on Christmas Eve. The train is packed with holiday excursionists, the hansom cabs are taken, and there is no room in the inn, no matter how much money you have. And I didn’t have a lot.

And let’s not even talk about the ghosts.

Ah, Christmas Eve, when the veil between the world of the living and the dead is very thin, and the holidays wears everyone’s tempers even thinner. All of the love, the heartbreak, the celebration and the sheer life of the living draws them nearer.

I found a warm drugstore, and was sitting at the counter, slowly drinking my cup of hot coffee, wondering how I was to find a place to stay on Christmas Day, when a drugstore-casanova came in. Oh, he was ready to help me find a place to stay! Such a masher. The ghosts of three poor girls clung to him. They looked like immigrant girls who had caught some sort of consumption.

The poor dears were in love beyond the grave.

A rush of patrons flooded into the store, and a soprano voice from heaven commanded the masher to “Move on out, Dooley. You should be ashamed to break hearts tonight.”

She was a red-headed goddess, and I could see the traces of stage make-up around her eyes. She extended a hand. “Sarah Kelso. You look fresh off the boat!” Continue reading

Day 4: How Bunny’s Camera Became Magical

She saw through the veil, until a curse ripped it away and showed her the terrifying realness of the world. (via Wikimedia Commons)

Miss Cook lived well into her 80s, never looking a day older than she did that Christmas Eve in 1898. (via Wikimedia Commons)

Welcome to the 8LW 25 Days of Stories.  Today we’re continuing with another story, based on the rules from the first year of our annual “Christmas Week Short Story Challenge” — a holiday version of our Friday Writing Sprints — featuring a short story of no more than 500 words including ‘Derbyshire’ and at least three of the following:  Darcy, Rhinoceros, Woolly, Admire, Love, Mine, Villain, VolcanoGhost.  Extra kudos for including more than three, and kudos with sparkles for Christmas references.

So here, courtesy of 8L Michaeline, is today’s story — a holiday ghost story.

The Return of Mr. Glossop

The music room was ready for the seance; the dearly departed Mr. Glossop’s prized rhinoceros head gazed phlegmatically over the scene below. Colonel Black firmly ignored the stuffed beast and gave his cameras a final check. With any luck, they would capture Mr. Glossop’s image, and the all-too-material Mrs. Glossop would fund his society for psychic research. The cameras were primed, and gelatin plates waited below for the cameras’ reloading. Black shivered. Snow was falling again.

Miss Cook drifted in, a cloud of white muslin shod in woolly slippers to ward off the drafts. “I see they have followed my directions perfectly.” She stepped lightly into the magic circle of thirteen chairs and wafted into the club chair at the head of the table.. Black saw her check the mechanism that would lift the table into the air.

“It’s Christmas Eve. You’ll hardly be needing that with the veil so thin,” Black scolded. He’d photographed her phantasms in Liverpool, and he admired her very real abilities. Continue reading

Day 3: ‘Twas Daybreak on Christmas

Welcome to the 8LW 25 Days of Stories.  Today we’re continuing with another story, based on the rules from the first year of our annual “Christmas Week Short Story Challenge” — a holiday version of our Friday Writing Sprints — featuring a short story of no more than 500 words including ‘Derbyshire’ and at least three of the following:  Darcy, Rhinoceros, Woolly, Admire, Love, Mine, Villain, VolcanoGhost.  Extra kudos for including more than three, and kudos with sparkles for Christmas references.

So here, courtesy of 8L Kay, is today’s story — a fun mash-up of Pride and Prejudice and The Night Before Xmas.

‘Twas Daybreak on Christmas

Sleigh-Silhouette’Twas daybreak on Christmas, and all through the hall
All the servants were stirring, for tonight was the ball.
The Yule log was laid and the mistletoe hung,
In hopes that Sir Darcy’s fling would be flung.

Miss Lizzie still nestled all snug in her bed,
While nightmares of family danced in her head.
But Mary and Kitty, and Lydia, too,
Argued at breakfast about whom Darcy would woo.

Then out in the parlor there rose such a clatter
Jane sprang from the table to see to the matter.
Maids had dropped glasses, which smashed on the floor
The butler was livid and gave them what-for. Continue reading

Day 2: “The Christmas Wager”

Welcome to the 8LW 25 Days of Stories.  Today we’re continuing with another story, based on the rules from the first year of our annual “Christmas Week Short Story Challenge” — a holiday version of our Friday Writing Sprints — featuring a short story of no more than 500 words including ‘Derbyshire’ and at least three of the following:  Darcy, Rhinoceros, Woolly, Admire, Love, Mine, Villain, Volcano, Ghost.  Extra kudos for including more than three, and kudos with sparkles for Christmas references.

So here, courtesy of 8L Elizabeth, is today’s story.

The Christmas Wager

“Oh, Papa, what have you done now?” Charlotte asked her father as he sat at the table calmly eating his Christmas pudding.

He raised his head and peered at her over the top of his spectacles with a frown. “What have I done?”

Charlotte pointed to the man standing in the doorway. “Lord Bickershaw has your note of hand for this house. He claims he won it from you.”

“Oh. That.” Lord Atherton sighed. “Meant to tell you about that, my dear.   I was testing my new mathematical theory–“

“By gambling?” she interrupted.

He rubbed his forehead as if trying to erase a bad memory. “I don’t know where I went wrong. Things were going splendidly all evening, then all of the sudden they took turn for the worse.”

“About the time Lord Bickershaw joined your table, was it?” she asked, with a glare toward the doorway. “Everyone knows he cheats.”

“How dare besmirch my honor,” Lord Bickershaw interrupted. “If you were a man I would call you out.”

“Don’t let my sex dissuade you. I must warn you however, I’m equally skilled with both pistol and rapier.”

“A little spitfire, aren’t you.” Lord Bickershaw looked her up and down. “Perhaps you’d care to make a wager of your own.” Continue reading

Day 1: “Runaway Match”

Welcome to the 8LW 25 Days of Stories.  In the early days of this blog, we kicked of our annual “Christmas Week Short Story Challenge” — a holiday version of our Friday Writing Sprints.  The resulting stories, which all started with a common prompt and set of random words, were as different as those of us who wrote them.

As this year rapidly approaches its end, I thought it would be fun to revisit some of the stories.  Today’s entry is the story that started the whole Short Story Challenge off.  The rules were simple–write a short story of no more than 500 words including ‘Derbyshire’ and at least three of the following: Darcy, Rhinoceros, Woolly, Admire, Love, Mine, Villain, Volcano, Ghost. Extra kudos for including more than three, and kudos with sparkles for Christmas references.

So here, courtesy of 8L Jilly, is today’s story.

Runaway Match

Runaway Match“Goddamn it, Darcy, this is no time to behave like a gentleman!” Rhett Favre snarled. Barely a handful of grains left in the game timer, one score behind, and still his best friend hesitated.

“I admire your ingenuity, Rhett.” Darcy Moncrieff looked over to the far corner of snow-covered Chatsworth Field, where Lady Elizabeth stood, desperately waving her woolly white pom-poms. “I love her more than my honor.” He stood tall and squared his broad shoulders. “Very well. Let us do it.”

What the hell had the Duke of Derbyshire been smoking when he decided to offer his daughter’s hand in marriage to the winning captain of the Christmas football game? He’d surely never expected that villain, the Sheriff of Nottingham, to bring his team of ruffians north to spoil the party.

Rhett drew his ramshackle army into a huddle. He looked into every man’s eyes, shook every man’s hand, and called the play. “Rhinoceros.Continue reading

Kay: Twas Daybreak (with apologies)

After I learned that Elizabeth had rejected the word “dismemberment” from this year’s randomly generated word list for the holiday story, I was unable to get it out of my mind. Twice I started a new story. One I came close to finishing. And both were about a wife who dismembered her husband and tossed his limbs down the well.

Not exactly the happy holiday ending we were going for.

In despair, I rooted through my past and discovered this holiday poem cribbage from 2014. I hope you’ve forgotten it! It’s an homage, if you can call it that, to Pride and Prejudice and the Bennett family. Dismembering, you’ll be happy to know, plays no part in this story.

Twas daybreak on Christmas, and all through the hall
All the servants were stirring, for tonight was the ball.
The Yule log was laid and the mistletoe hung,
In hopes that Sir Darcy’s fling would be flung.

Miss Lizzie still nestled all snug in her bed,
While nightmares of family danced in her head.
But Mary and Kitty, and Lydia, too,
Argued at breakfast about whom Darcy would woo.

Then out in the parlor there rose such a clatter
Jane sprang from the table to see to the matter.
Maids had dropped glasses, which smashed on the floor
The butler was livid and gave them what-for.

The cook was still worried her sauce wasn’t right
While Pa hit his sauce and got pretty tight.
The daughters decided to primp the whole day
When Mama’s hysterics just drove them away.

Finally—at long last!—the party time neared,
And moonbeams glowed down as the bad weather cleared.
Arriving by carriage the revelers came,
And the butler emerged to call them by name.

Here’s Darcy and Collins,
And Bingley among us!
And Wickham’s dismounting
To give us comeuppance!
To Lucas goes Collins
And Jane’s Bingley’s bride!
But Lizzie dumped Darcy
Because of his pride.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh is a pain in the heinie
Her ego is huge and her modesty, tiny
Here’s Caroline Bingley, the Gardiners, too
Georgiana is present to beef up the stew.

Mr. Bennet, the host, a right cheerful old squire,
Greeted each guest as he stood by the fire.
“I’m happy to see you, please drink and be jolly!”
So guests then embarked on all kinds of folly.

And then, in a twinkling, the music commenced
And Lizzie sat down, leaving Darcy incensed.
Kitty and Lydia flirted like mad
And Wickham decided to act like a cad.

His eyes—how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses from way too much sherry.
He spoke of his love, he said, “Come and be mine.”
And Lydia believed him, that smooth-talking swine.

They flew off to Derbyshire, where they could be wed
But Darcy pursued them, his heart full of dread.
He promised his Lizzie he’d bring back the villain
But said not a word about blood he’d be spillin’.

Lizzie stayed up like a ghost the whole night
Till Darcy returned at dawn’s early light.
“They’re married,” he told her, “and all will be well.”
“My hero,” she said. He said, “My precious belle.”

He then took her hand and got down on his knee,
“I was stupid and wrong,” he said. “Please marry me.
I thought I was wise, but it’s you I admire.
So if you can love me, let’s tell your good sire.”

Lizzie said yes with a fervor so fine.
“I love you, I do, please say you’ll be mine.
I’ll marry you now and love you forever
And stand by your side through every endeavor.”

And so our tale ends with a happy e’er after
And hearts full of love and plenty of laughter.
For you, my dear readers, I wish much the same,
But for poor stabs at poetry, I take all the blame.

Happy holidays, everyone! And best wishes from all of us to all of you for a wonderful new year.

Jilly: George and the Dragon

Here’s my contribution to the 2020 8 Ladies Christmas Short Story Challenge. I think I got all the prompt words!

George and the Dragon

The winter sun was low in the sky as Georgina Albion moored her sailboat at Stack Aerie’s small dock and picked her way along the slippery wooden boards, ignoring the freshly painted PRIVATE PROPERTY sign and the new ones that said NO TRESPASSING and VISITORS BY INVITATION ONLY.

She raised her eyes to the scudding clouds, but her thoughts were directed at the reclusive new owner. How can I be be invited, if you never answer your post or open your email?

There was a painted steel circle beside the first step of the narrow stone stair that clung to the vertiginous cliff face, and another at the top. Stylized dragons with razor claws and fiery breath, contained within a red perimeter and crossed by a red diagonal bar. In case that wasn’t clear enough, the message was spelled out below: NO DRAGONS HERE.

George stopped for a moment to trace the image with a fingertip. “If that’s true, your Uncle Basil made a big mistake.”

From the cliff top it was a short walk to the futuristic glass-and-steel dome that perched atop the towering granite sea-stack. She knew from past visits that the bubble’s airy interior was comfortable but sparsely furnished. The temperature was always pleasant, the filtered light clear and bright, and the views out over the stormy ocean and back toward the mainland were breathtaking. The traditional rooms—a kitchen, dining room, office, bedrooms—were below, set within the rock. And far, far, far deeper, under the ocean bed, Bas’s treasure cave lay hidden.

The reinforced glass door was flung open before she could ring the bell. “What now?”

The man who blocked the entrance was tall—six and a half feet of long legs encased in dark jeans, broad shoulders snugly wrapped in black cashmere, chiseled features, and short, dark, spiky hair. The luminous eyes that glowered down at her were a distracting golden green color, with an unmistakable amethyst rim.

George blew out a breath. There was no mistake. Bas had chosen his successor. The rest was up to her.

Continue reading