Read Mistletoe and Magic (Novella): A Loveswept Historical Romance Online
Authors: Katie Rose
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #General, #Contemporary Women
Mistletoe and Magic
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
A Loveswept eBook Original
Copyright © 2013 by Colleen Bosler
A Hint of Mischief
by Katie Rose copyright © 1998 by Katie Rose.
All Rights Reserved.
Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, New York, a Penguin Random House Company.
and colophon are trademarks of Random House LLC.
Cover design: Lynn Andreozzi
Cover illustration: Franco Accornero
ebook ISBN: 978-0-345-54431-5
This story is for all of my readers who loved the Appleton sisters as much as I did. Penelope finally has her own tale!
Special thanks to my daughter, Erin, Sue Grimshaw, Angela Polidoro, Marlene Murdock, and Gail Fortune for their ideas and support.
I see someone,” Jennifer Appleton whispered. Her half-shut eyes fell on the elderly woman seated across the table from her. “It is a woman. Has your mother passed over as well as your father?”
Why, yes!” Beatrice Osborne appeared surprised as she gazed at the lovely young woman before her. “He died in the war, while she …”
Her heart.” Jennifer nodded as the woman gasped in acknowledgment. “I have a strange feeling right here.” She pressed her hand over her left breast and appeared to shudder. “I feel she really left us due to a broken heart.”
She was never the same after seeing my father’s name on those papers.” Beatrice’s eyes filled. “And though they said she had a weakness due to the fever, I believe as you do.”
The war took many widows as well as husbands,” Jennifer said. “Did she wear a cameo?”
All the time!” The old woman pulled a chain from beneath her collar and displayed a beautifully carved pearl silhouette on a black stone. “This was hers. I can still smell her perfume!”
She knows that you wear it and think of her. I can see your father now. They are together on the other side. Know that they are happy and at peace. They will be there for you one day.”
As if on cue, a harpsichord wailed somewhere in the old house, and a ghostly sound emanated from the walls. The chandelier trembled overhead, throwing dancing prisms of light about the room
Your father wants you to know that he loves you, too …” Jennifer intoned
The music faded away, and Beatrice rose and hugged her as Penelope and Winifred entered with refreshments. “It was my parents!” She turned to the beautiful
Appleton sisters, beaming with pleasure. “They were here, and I’ve missed them so badly! How can I ever thank you!” She pressed a sealed envelope discreetly into Jennifer’s hands
I am glad,” Jennifer said, as Winifred and Penelope bestowed benevolent smiles on the wealthy widow. “We know what it’s like to miss your loved ones. I am very pleased we brought you a measure of comfort.”
Beatrice disappeared through the door and the three sisters hugged each other in congratulations. “You were wonderful, Winifred!” Jennifer cried. “I swear I can still hear the music! And Penelope, when you jiggled the chandelier, I thought I was seeing ghosts! But how did you know about the cameo?”
I saw it beneath her blouse,” Penelope explained with a shrug. “It wasn’t hard to guess the rest …”
Winifred gave her a shrewd look, but Jennifer merely laughed and collapsed in exhaustion. “It worked beautifully. By the time we’re done, I will have enough to pay for Winnie’s law books, and a gown for your debut …” Since Winifred couldn’t be a practicing attorney, she worked with Charles Howe and assisted him in his cases
Penelope slowly opened her eyes and saw the bright gaslights of the dressing room. It was only a memory, a vision of what had happened just a few years ago when she and her sisters were practicing spiritualism for wealthy widows in New York.
It was clever Jennifer who’d come up with the scheme when they were orphaned at a young age. Their aunt, Eve Appleton, had taken them in when their parents died. Although she was generous, she was far from rich, and Jennifer realized they would have to find a way to earn some much-needed money. Thankfully, spiritualism was all the rage, and the three pretty young sisters soon attracted a moneyed following.
The ironic part of their notorious past was that she, Penelope Appleton, had a secret: ever since she was a child, she could truly see the future.
She had never told anyone, and had gone along with the charade when Jennifer pretended to summon ghosts from the grave. If on occasion she imparted a suggestion to
her sister, it was simply considered a lucky guess. Clever Jennifer and brilliant Winnie had always thought of her as the pretty one, a girl who used her looks to enchant men and women alike, and who hadn’t another thought in her head except what she would wear tomorrow or how to use the curling tongs on her bangs to create a charming fringe. Yet if she concentrated deeply, got rid of the chatter inside her head, and really focused, she could close her eyes and see what was to come.
When she’d met Mary Forester, she intuited that her son was Jennifer’s future husband. And she saw the same thing with Charles Howe in regard to her other sister, long before he and Winifred were even friends. Although neither courtship was without difficulty, Penelope was always sure deep down that these men were destined for her sisters, and that they would be supremely happy.
Now that her sisters were wed, they had given up séances, and Penelope had kept her secret to herself. But now it was her turn. On Saturday night at the Vanderbilts’ Christmas ball, she would meet her one true love.
She had already seen it.
“Stop fussing, my dear, and please turn around so I can fasten your bustle.”
Penelope broke out of her thoughts and managed a smile for the seamstress. Martha Winspear, New York’s most fashionable dressmaker, gathered up the satin and began draping the fabric, meticulously inserting one pin after another into the folds. Finished, she sat back on her heels and nodded with satisfaction.
“There now. Turn around and see if that doesn’t look grand!”
Penelope whirled to face the mirror, and then gasped with delight when she saw her new dress. Simple and elegant, the ivory satin ball gown dipped scandalously low in the bodice, only to pause at a black velvet belt, which encircled an impossibly slender waist. The rich fabric then molded to her hips in a daring mermaid silhouette before flouncing to the floor in a charming cascade of ruffles.
“Martha, it’s gorgeous!” Penelope said with pleasure. “You’ve outdone yourself. Why, you will be the talk of the town after the Vanderbilts’ Christmas ball, I will see to it!”
The seamstress beamed as she peered at the woman before her. She couldn’t wish for a better model to showcase her work, for Penelope was truly beautiful. Martha’s head
cocked shrewdly as she took in the young woman’s perfect features, the soft blond hair that was the color of pure sunlight, and the rosebud mouth. But it was her eyes that bedazzled even the most casual passerby: violet blue, like the depths of a fairy pool, Penelope Appleton’s gaze made one feel enchanted.
And there was no lack of funds to pay for the dress, Martha thought in approval. The older Appleton sisters had married well, so Penelope could afford any gown of her choosing to make her long-awaited debut.
Looking critically at the garment once more, Martha smoothed a ruffle. “That is very kind, my dear. You will turn every other girl green with envy. And why not? You are the most beautiful of the famous Appleton sisters, after all! Come now, put on your gloves and your earbobs, and let’s go show the ladies!”
Penelope grinned in excitement and, still holding her dress aloft, rushed out to the parlor where Jennifer and Winifred waited with their aunt Eve. The dressmaker dramatically turned up the gaslights as Penelope stepped out from behind a curtain onto the stage.
Three gasps sounded at once as the sisters rose in unison, while Eve fumbled in her pocket for her lace handkerchief.
“Why, Pen, you are stunning!” Jennifer cried, a toddler on her knee. Scholarly Winifred removed her glasses to polish them on her sleeve, and then peered through the spectacles once more with approval. Aunt Eve dabbed at her eyes, choking back tears before coming to stand before her niece, her face full of emotion.
“You are radiant, my dear! Your parents would have been so proud! Who else would have thought of putting a black velvet ribbon at the waist but you! You were always so clever! Your mother often talked about your debut and the plans she had for all of you. And now with two of you well married,” she glanced at Jennifer and Winifred approvingly, “that only leaves our Penny. I wish your mother could be with us here today!”
“I feel she is,” Penelope whispered, glancing into the mirror with an odd look. “I
she is,” she repeated more firmly.
The sisters were silent for a moment, thinking of their parents who had passed several years ago. It was Jennifer who looked up first, gave her sister a grin, and
indicated the lovely gown. “I want to hug you, but I’m afraid to wrinkle that dress!”
“Pooh.” Penelope whirled around and opened her arms to embrace them all. This time their tears flowed freely. Eve cried daintily into her linen cloth, careful not to wet the gown, Jennifer choked, and Winifred sniffled.
They made a charming picture. Jennifer, her dark blond hair pulled back into a loose chignon and her mischievous gray eyes brimming with tears, looked as proud as any doting mother. Winifred’s severe bun and restrained dress only emphasized her elegant features, which were filled with affection for her younger sister. And Aunt Eve, plump and pretty in her blue morning dress with her sugar-spun hair gleaming in the lamplight, looked like a fairy godmother.
Even the dressmaker joined in the emotional storm, wailing loudly before blowing her nose into her handkerchief with a snort that startled the other women into laughter.
“There, there, now, we must be careful of the pins!” Martha, realizing the danger to her creation, wedged herself in the middle of the fray. “You can change now, dear. I’ll stitch this up today and be ready to press it tomorrow. Saturday evening, mark my words, you will be the belle of the ball! And then I will be designing your wedding gown!”