A Christmas Secret

By: Janelle Daniels

Harry gulped as the crowd disbursed in reverent whispers. Who could have known that one song would mean so much?

What would it be like to spend fifty years with someone? To love so much that even years after their passing, their absence would be felt so acutely.

He couldn’t wait a moment longer.

He turned to Rosalie. “We need to talk. Privately.”

She rubbed her head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. I’m not feeling well. Perhaps tomorrow? I need to lie down.” She didn’t listen for his answer before heading out the door.

Harry waited only a second before following her. Tomorrow was too far away.

He caught up with her as she passed the gigantic Christmas tree next to the staircase. “Rosalie, wait.”

Her foot was raised on the first step, her hand gripping the railing, but she froze, neither climbing up nor turning toward him.

“Look at me,” he whispered, his throat going hoarse with need.

“I can’t.” Her breath hitched.

He went to her then, placing his hands on her shoulders and turning her to face him. He took in the tears sliding down her cheeks, her trembling chin. “What is wrong?”

“Nothing. Please. Leave me be.”

He should have released her then, but nothing on earth could make him let her go in that moment. “No. Tell me what is wrong.”

She closed her eyes on a gush of tears. “I can’t do this any more.”

“Can’t do what?”

“This. I can’t be your friend.”

The evergreen scent from the tree filled his lungs as he sucked in a breath. “You can’t? Why not? Good heavens, what have I done to bring you to this point?”

She sobbed, trying to shake him loose but he wouldn’t let go. He felt her slipping away from him, and he wouldn’t give up any more unless she forced him to.

“You haven’t done anything. Really. This is all my fault. I love you, Harry. I’ve loved you for years. I know it isn’t what you want, but I can’t help it. I’ve fought my feelings, but it’s too much now. I can’t continue to see you, continue to interact with you, dance with you, talk and laugh with you without wanting more. It’s easier for me if we just part ways.”

Relief and shock surged through him. She loved him. Had loved him for years. He laughed with joy at the realization.

She gasped. “You’re laughing at me?”

She tried to struggle away from him, but he only held on tighter as his laughter tapered off. “Sweet love, we’ve been so foolish.”

She stilled in his arms. “What did you call me?”

He wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her closer regardless of who might come upon them. “I called you my love.” She inhaled deeply at his declaration. “How could you not have seen how much I love you? My heart has been yours since almost the first time we met. My love has only grown stronger with each time we’ve been together. I go to those retched parties just to spend time with you, to earn one of your smiles, to light a glimmer of joy in your eyes. Nothing else matters without you.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

He laughed huskily. “You mean why didn’t I mention it when you seemed to have no interest in me romantically? Why didn’t I tell you that I loved you when it could ruin everything we already had together? I couldn’t bear the thought of losing you. I couldn’t stand the thought of seeing you at parties for years to come but never being with you.” His grip around her tightened. “You’re my biggest dream, my only wish, the only woman I’ve ever wanted or loved. I don’t want to be without you.”

Her eyes glimmered with tears again, but this time, they were happy ones. She smiled into his eyes. “So, what are you saying, Harry?”

An answering smile tugged his lips. “I’m saying I love you, Rosalie. I love you so much it almost drove me crazy. I’m saying I want to be with you for the rest of my life. I want to share my life with you, a family, and a home.” When he released her, her brows furrowed in confusion. “And I’m asking you,” he knelt down in front of her, reaching into his pocket for the ring he’d purchased long ago with the hope of giving it to her, “to marry me. To be my wife. To put me out of my misery, and tell me you’ll be my best friend for the rest of my life.”

She laughed happily through the tears, nodding as she glanced from the sapphires and diamonds winking in the candlelight to his eyes. “Yes. Yes, I’ll marry you.”

With a sigh of relief, he placed the ring on her finger before lifting her off the stairs into a searing kiss. All thoughts, feelings, and desires he’d held in check for years poured into that one meeting of lips beside the Christmas tree. He showed her how much he loved her as their souls met without words.

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