A Very Selwick Christmas: Chapter Seven

What better way to celebrate a holiday Monday than with the final historical chapter of That Still Untitled Selwick Christmas Novella?

Check back this Wednesday to beguile the final day before the release of The Temptation of the Night Jasmine with a special Eloise and Colin double feature. Our favorite modern pair will be starring in the Prologue and Epilogue to That Still Untitled Christmas Novella.

Finally, come visit the following Monday (the 26th) for a Title That Blasted Novella! Contest, which will run all that week, winners to be announced on Saturday, January 31st.

Now onto Chapter Seven….

    Chapter Seven

All out of darkness we have light,
Which made the Angels sing this night.
Glory to God and peace to men,
Now and for evermore. Amen.

— Sussex Carol

Her husband shook his head. “You what?”

“You heard me.” Amy folded her arms across her chest. “I’m not going, and I don’t want to.” That had come out the wrong way round, hadn’t it? Drat. “What I mean is, I don’t—”

She never got to explain what she meant. In two exuberant bounds, Richard had crossed the space between them, and she found herself squished flat against his waistcoat. “Thank goodness for that.”

Amy’s nose was mashed up against her husband’s lapel. Not that she was complaining about the sentiment that appeared to have motivated it, but asphyxiation didn’t quite constitute a full answer. In muffled tones, she said, “But you’re the one who wanted me to go.”

“No, I just wanted you to be able to go if you wanted to go.”

Language. So confusing. There were times when Amy wondered if they might not all be better off just scratching and grunting and miming at each other, or drawing cave pictures.

“Then why did you offer?” Amy demanded, scratching her chin on the wool of Richard’s jacket as she tilted her head back.

Richard eyed her warily, trying to determine whether that were a trick question. “You seemed so unhappy,” he said, “about Jane.”

Amy felt a little twinge of guilt. She had been. On his behalf as well as her own, she reminded herself. So, really, it had been a very generous sort of unhappiness, taking on his as well as her own. Generous, but perhaps just a little counter-productive.

“I thought you were unhappy,” she countered, “about not being able to spy anymore.”

Drawing himself up, Richard opened his mouth to deliver what looked like it was gearing up to be a rousing oration of denial—and closed it again.

Abandoning the pose, he deflated like a balloon, his breath whistling out beneath his teeth in a long sigh. “I was,” he admitted. “I am. But not as unhappy as I would be if the situation were reversed.”

“But you were happy there,” Amy pressed. “Before.”

He took a moment to think about, looking out somewhere into the space over her left shoulder, as though France might be found just to the right of the French doors. “I enjoyed what I did,” he said at long last. “A great deal. If it hadn’t been for circumstances—”

“For me,” Amy interjected.

“—I would probably have gone on doing it.”

Amy’s blue eyes narrowed. Was this supposed to be reassuring? Because if it was, he was going about it all wrong.

“But,” Richard said, tilting back her chin to look her straight in the eye, “it couldn’t have gone on forever. Sooner or later, Delaroche would have caught up with me. Even if he hadn’t, one of these days, we’ll finally put paid to Bonaparte’s ambitions and see another king back onto the throne.”

“Here, here,” Amy replied by rote.

A grin flickered across Richard’s lips before he sobered again. “Either way, capture or success, it had to end eventually. And where would I have been then?”

“In a French prison?” contributed Amy helpfully.

“Hopefully not. Have you seen their accommodations?”

In fact, she had, iron maiden and all. A certain member of Bonaparte’s secret police had somewhat eccentric and antiquarian notions of proper interrogation methods.

“So,” said Amy, summing it all up, “what you’re telling me is that life with me is marginally preferable to durance vile in one of Monsieur Delaroche’s deeper dungeons.”

“A little more than marginally,” said Richard generously. “It’s right up there with one of his shallower dungeons. Ouch!” He rubbed his shoulder where Amy had whapped it. “Mid-level, then.”

“And what if it had all ended in a restoration, rather than a dungeon cell?” Amy prodded.

Releasing her, Richard prowled across the carpet, kicking the warming pan out of his way. “That would have been even worse. At least in the dungeon, I could entertain myself plotting my escape and making mocking noises at my gaolers. At home….” He shrugged helplessly. “What was there to do? I’ve never been one for estate management. I don’t find any thrill in betting large sums on the rattle of a pair of dice, and I’ve never been able to see the point in driving my horses too fast. Unless someone is chasing me, that is.”

Amy thought about it. It was true; after their nine months together, she couldn’t imagine Richard being happy with the polite dissipations that contented his peers. They were driven by boredom; Richard by something else entirely.

It was a something else that Amy understood very well, not a mere search for diversions to beguile the days, but a quest for something bigger, grander. A cause. A quest. Honor. Glory. Something with a purpose to it. Danger for danger’s sake, risk for risk’s sake was not enough.

Sensing he had her, Richard pressed his advantage home, “Without you,” he said fulsomely, “I wouldn’t have known what to do with myself. I would never have thought of starting a school for spies. I would be all alone with nothing to beguile the evenings but a pile of old newspaper clippings.”

Amy snorted. “Nonsense,” she said, in unconscious imitation of Miss Gwen. “I’m sure you would have found multiple candidates to share your hearth and your newspaper clippings with you.”

“But they wouldn’t have been you.” Memory curved a smile across Richard’s face. “How many women can infiltrate the dungeons of the Ministry of Police and banter with the guards in the local dialect?”

Now that he mentioned it, that had been a rather nice piece of work on her part. Even constructed on short notice, the serving wench costume had worked perfectly. Amy nodded. “True,” she agreed.

Richard shoved his hands into his pockets. “I wouldn’t want to go back, or change anything that happened. It’s just…. ” He frowned at the woodwork, scrounging for the proper words, “It is always easier to wax nostalgic about what we can’t have than appreciate what we do.”

It was hard to argue with that. Amy heaved a sigh deep enough to make the draperies flutter. “I’ve been guilty of that, too.”

“About that,” said Richard. “When you said you don’t want to go back France… does that mean you don’t want to go back?”

“I wouldn’t quite put it that way,” Amy hedged, even though she was the one who had in the first place. But if Richard was going to scrub his soul clean, then it was only fair that she do the same. “It’s not that I don’t want to go back at all. Under the proper circumstances, of course I want to go back. It all went by too fast.”

Across the room, Richard shifted his weight, jamming his hands deeper into his pockets.

Taking a deep breath, Amy said definitively, knowing that she was closing a door, even as she propping open another, “But these aren’t those circumstances. I don’t want to go back without you.”

Richard smirked. It was just a little smirk, but easily identifiable to the experienced wifely eye.

Just in case he got too smug, Amy added frankly, “In any event, I wouldn’t like playing second fiddle to Jane.” It was true. It had been one thing when she and Jane had been neophytes together, both learning their way in the murky world of Bonaparte’s Paris. Back then, she had been the one to take the lead. To go back now, now that Jane had had eight months to build up her own methods and networks, would be impossibly galling. “I’m not very good at following orders. I prefer to be right up front, not following along behind.”

Richard raised an eyebrow. “What about side by side?”

“Side by side?” Amy echoed.

Richard strolled towards her, never breaking his gaze. “Side by side,” he confirmed. “A partnership. No leading, no following. I’d say we’ve done fairly well at that so far. Tonight, for example.”

Could it really be counted as side by side when he had been up on a balcony?

Amy momentarily ignored that academic wrinkle and went straight for the more important point. “Partnership or not, we’re still on this side of the Channel,” she pointed out.

“Someone pointed out to me tonight that there’s work to be done here, too,” said Richard, and even though he kept his voice level, Amy could sense the excitement behind it. “The émigré community here is a hotbed of rumors and sedition. I know many of them from my work abroad….”

“And I don’t know any of them,” put in Amy, caught by the possibility. She looked up at her husband with eyes gone starry. Costumes! She would have the chance to wear costumes again and creep out back alleys and climb through windows. “You could approach them directly, while I could conduct surveillance to make sure they weren’t lying to you!”

“You can reprise your serving maid performance,” second her husband, enjoying himself hugely.

“And a few others,” muttered Amy. “There were so many disguises I never had the chance to use….”

“If that doesn’t work out,” said her husband thoughtfully, “there are other countries, too. Places where no one ever saw the Purple Gentian. We couldn’t go as ourselves—our names are known—but our faces aren’t. We could travel safely under an assumed persona.”

“Italy!” Amy’s face lit up. “They’ve suffered under Bonaparte’s yoke long enough. Or Russia. Surely, there must be work to be done there.”

“The weather is better in Italy,” decreed Richard. “Not to mention the food.”

“We never really did have a proper honeymoon,” said Amy, clapping her hands. “Where better than Italy?”

“Let’s try the London route first,” said her husband prudently. “Just to get back into practice first.”

Amy started to argue, and then remembered that she didn’t speak any Italian. Years of practicing French dialect wasn’t likely to be much help in Tuscany. Perhaps a few language classes were in order before going abroad again. “Yes,” she agreed demurely. “And we really can’t just abandon our responsibilities at the spy school. If we go the London route, we do both at once, teaching and spying.”

A thoughtful expression spread across Richard’s face. “It could work,” he said slowly. “It could work very well.”

“You would have to come up with a new name, of course…”

“We,” Richard corrected. “We would have to come up with a new name.”

Amy abruptly ceased to envy Jane her lonely Carnation. Jane might have the notoriety, but she was a flower alone, a single bud on a bare stem, or something of that nature. Miss Gwen could only be counted as a thorn.

A husband-and-wife flower—what would the illustrated papers have to say to that? Who had ever heard of such a thing? They would take the front pages by storm. And Bonaparte, too, of course.
Amy could just picture it.

Amy beamed up at her husband. “How did you know exactly what I wanted for Christmas?” She eyed Lady Uppington’s decorations. “We could be the Holly and the Ivy!”

Richard grimaced in an exaggerated fashion. “Must we?” There was a dangerous glint to his green eyes. “I much prefer mistletoe.”

Amy craned her neck. “I don’t see any.”

“You’re just not looking hard enough,” said her husband blandly.

“Oh, no,” insisted Amy, “I really don’t think we put any in here. I should know. I hung most of it.” Her hands still bore the scratches to prove it. Mistletoe wasn’t quite as friendly as it pretended to be, especially when one was up on a ladder with one’s mother by marriage calling out instructions.

Richard stepped closer, blotting out her view of the rest of the room. “Really?” he said, his breath ruffling the hair at her temples.

“Oh,” said Amy breathlessly. “That mistletoe.”

There would be plenty of time to work out the details of their new venture. After Twelfth Night, perhaps. As for now, her husband’s former infatuation had been moved safely out of his heart and into the box room, a rosy new dawn was streaking the snow, her relatives by marriage were all safely on the other side of a very thick oak panel, and the imaginary mistletoe was calling. Amy gave herself happily up to the joy of unwrapping her very favorite Christmas present.

‘Twas the season, after all.

To move on to the Epilogue, click here….


  1. Maren on January 19, 2009 at 2:15 am

    I’m so glad I checked this site before I went to bed, under the sneaking suspicion that it might be updated at midnight. Ahhh. That was very happy. Thank you.

    I hope we see these new espionage endeavors of Richard and Amy’s more fully in the coming books. I imagine they would be immensely entertaining.

  2. Mary Lou Hart on January 19, 2009 at 2:16 am

    Great ending (or beginning for Amy & Richard – Yeah they are learning to talk to each other). Can’t wait to see what Eloise & Colin are up to (my favorite characters by far) Wednesday can’t get here fast enough.

  3. Desiree on January 19, 2009 at 3:03 am

    So sad it is done! I want more and I can not wait til that book finally makes it to my mail box. I love Richard and Amy’s story.

  4. AmyMc on January 19, 2009 at 4:40 am

    Oooh! So glad I checked this before going to bed! “The Holly and The Ivy,” I love it! Thank you so much for writing this for us. I can’t wait to read Colin and Eloise’s two chapters. After all, it was Eloise who first drew me (and probably all of us) in…

  5. Jamie on January 19, 2009 at 8:38 am

    This was a fantastic end. Bravo! I do hope that the relationship furthering is incorperated into future books. Though I am sad we didn’t get to see letty and geoff.

    All in all I can’t wait for Wednesday! Hopefully elloise’s escapades will be incorporated into books as well!

  6. Nikki V on January 19, 2009 at 10:45 am

    This was so great! Thanks so much Lauren. It’s always good to see how characters are doing after the stories end. I can’t wait til Thursday:)

  7. Erica on January 19, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Bravo! LOVED it. So does this mean that there may be a book(s) in the future about Richard’s and Amy’s adventures abroad? hint hint….

  8. Jilli on January 19, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Bravo! I’m glad that they patched it up. Still wish more Miles and Hen and maybe Geoff were there, but they’d only make Richard say stupider things I suppose…

    Can’t wait to see Wednesday’s Epilogue/Time Travel.

  9. Bryana on January 19, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    This chapter was simply fantastic! I’m excited to see Richard and Amy’s future espionage plans and am glad to see my couple in this series going strong. Thanks Lauren!

  10. Deanna on January 19, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    The perfect way to start my week! Glad that Amy and Richard finally started listening to each other. Hopefully we’ll get to see what they get up to in Italy (hint hint!)

    Also, can’t wait to get the book on Thursday! It’s my birthday present to myself 🙂 Hurry up Thursday!

  11. Lauren on January 19, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Happy birthday, Deanna!

  12. Nikki M on January 19, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Oh Lauren, that was perfect! Thank you so much. I couldn’t think of a better ending. You’ve yet again made my week.
    Thank you again.

  13. alexandria on January 19, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    THE BEST STORY!!!!! I loved it I am glad that Deidre finally got what was coming to her! I am sad to see it end though!
    Thanks Lauren! I really enjoyed it! Please write another novella for us!

  14. Laura on January 19, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    What about calling it “The Ruse of the White Poinsetta”? Kinda Christmassy.

  15. Laura on January 19, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    oops. spelled that wrong. it’s Poinsettia.

  16. Liz on January 19, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Oh I loved this so much! Amy and Richard are by far my favorite couple, and its nice to see that they are still up to their old tricks. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see more of their adventures in the future! And I’m dying to know what a husband-wife spy team would call themselves….

  17. Kristin on January 19, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    I loved it! Thanks Lauren!

  18. Kate on January 20, 2009 at 12:16 am

    Oh what a nice treat it was to read that! I have been missing your books and can’t wait for the next one to come out! This novella has certainly made the wait far less painful!
    Thank you!!

  19. Diane on January 20, 2009 at 12:35 am

    I’m sorry to see it end! But, like all good things, end it must. I like how Amy can see that, through the mystery and excitement of the espionage game, Jane is “a flower alone”, likening Miss Gwen to “a thorn”. She is happy with the idea of a partnership with her husband, not only because she would be with him but because he would be happy. I can sympathize with her because she was thinking that it was her fault that he couldn’t do what made him happy for so many years, and even though he loved her and she knew that, there could have been more for him in the spy world.

    I can’t wait for Thursday!!! Thanks so much for this little taste of Amy and Richard before the next installment of the Pink Carnation!

  20. Jacqueline on January 20, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Wonderful! I’m so sad to see it done, but the ending was perfect. All Richard and Amy needed to do was talk over a few things to realize they are perfectly suited for each other.
    I’m sure you can’t write these books forever, Lauren, but I do hope there is one more Richard and Amy story left in you to fill another novel. They are my favorite, but I guess it’s because they were the first. Thanks again!

  21. Laura on January 20, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Thank you so much Lauren! You are making the wait til Thursday much less painful. I hope this means there will be more of Amy & Richard in future books. I’d also like to know more about the deception of Deidre & what happens to her. (I hope she gets what’s coming to her.) Please write more about Geoff & Letty and Hen & Miles (my favs). Plus I still think there’s more to Turnip (not a flower, but a vegetable-named spy?) Thanks again!

  22. Daniela on January 20, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    You’ve done it again, Lauren! I hope that it is as easy to write these stories as it is to read them. I cannot wait for the new book and the last installment!

  23. Hannah Renee on January 21, 2009 at 12:08 am

    Absolutely wonderful ministory! I do fear it might put a disruption in the books… not showing directly how Miles and Richard made up… but I’m sure you’ll handle it. As it is… it gives lots of exciting possibilities, especially as I absolutely LOVE Amy and Richard, seeing as I pretty much AM Amy. Awesome job, can’t wait for Night Jasmine!

  24. Beena Shah on January 21, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    This was a great story! It was fun seeing all of my favorite characters again. I would like to see more of Miles and Henrietta, their story is stil my favorite. Thanks so much for continuously keeping us entertained! I can’t wait to get off of work and pick up your latest book – Night Jasmine!

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