Regency Pinto from The Thought of You is Consuming Me

I had left London much later than I should have and I’d had to stop at an inn and stables to rest my horse for quite a bit longer than I had planned or anticipated.

Therefore it was full on dark and light as I rode up the long pathway to the Quinton Country Estate. I saw no indication of light in any window as I approached and I realized with some dismay, Zach had stopped expecting me.

Before he’d left London for the Christmas season, we’d discussed the day I should make my arrival there, if I was going to. It had been far from certain. He’d been so hopeful that I likely had been too encouraging in my agreement to try. My parents had made it clear they wanted me to stay in London, spending the break from University with them, instead of in the country with my friend. As he would only ever be to them. To anyone.

Thus the reason I had left too late to make it to his home at a decent time. I’d been trying to make both them and him happy and it had exhausted me, to be honest.

And as discouraged as I was by the sight of his dark unwelcoming house, I made my way to the stables to store and properly care for my horse.

By the time I had finished to make my way to the house, I was exhausted beyond reason and stumbling up the path to the door. I knocked.

Of course there was no immediate answer. It was Zach’s usual practice to send his servants away during my visits so we could freely explore our affections for each other.

I knocked again.

Waited.

Nothing.

I did not relish sleeping on his doorstep nor with my horse. I knocked louder and harder.

“Zach! Zachary!”

When I was about to lose all hope, I heard the snick of the lock. I straightened as the door opened.

“Christopher?”

He looked wrecked. His cravat was askew and his hair disheveled. And definitely redness around the eyes.

I smiled. “Who else?”

Zach blinked. “I…didn’t think you were coming.”

I almost hadn’t but of course I didn’t say that. I couldn’t. Instead I said simply, “Of course I was coming. Can I come in?”

He seized me then, pulling me into the house and into his arms. For a long time we just held each other. It had been too long since we’d had such a private opportunity to do this. His arms around me felt better than anything.

Finally he pulled back and cupped my cheek with his very warm hand. I hadn’t realized how cold I was. “I’m so glad. You look cold and miserable.”

I laughed, which turned rather watery because the exhaustion was making me emotional. “I’ve had a rough day.”

“Me too. Come into the kitchen.”

He pulled me there, unwilling to let go of me for even a second. And I was glad.

My chest ached when we reached the kitchen for I saw discarded food, thrown away. I knew instantly he had been preparing a feast for me and when I had not come…

“Zachary,” I whispered, tears springing to my eyes.

“I’m sorry. I’m afraid I had rather a melancholy fit when you didn’t arrive when I thought you should.” He shook his head. “I’m embarrassed and mortified.”

I drew him close and kissed him for a long time. “Even if I had not been able to come that doesn’t change the way I feel about you. I love you. Adore every single bit of you.”

“I return those sentiments tenfold.” He smiled wryly. “And while I have ruined our perfectly good supper, I had not yet discarded the wassail.”

I laughed as he went to a sideboard and dipped glasses into a bowl of wassail. He handed one to me.

I took a large sip. “You do a fine wassail, my love.”

“Tomorrow when we wake I will spoil you endlessly with feasts and love all the day long,” Zach assured me.

I kissed him once more. “This may yet be the best of Christmases.”

“I vow it.”

Wassail Recipe