"Something sparkled and caught her eye.
Olivia Broadstroke walked up the snowy steps of Falloway with great anticipation. This was her first holiday house party at the well-known estate and excitement bubbled inside her. Near the corner of the top step she stopped to see what tiny object had twinkled at her. There nestled in the gathering snow was a brass button. It wasn’t large, but my, it was shiny.
“What are you doing?” her mother asked. “Picking up something off the ground? Throw that down before you get your gloves dirty.”
“It’s in the snow on a step, Mama, not on the ground. It’s a pretty button. See.” She held it up for her mother to inspect the round shape and fancy scrollwork on the flat surface.
All Olivia received from her mother in return was the roll of her eyes and an annoyed huff before she said, “Add it to your collection if you must.”
Olivia would. She loved to make jewelry out of small stones or shells she found on her many walks along the shore, and beautiful or unusual buttons. She cupped her new find tightly in her gloved hand as they entered the grand home. After removing her wrap, and while her mother chatted with a friend, Olivia quickly untied the ribbon from around her neck. She slipped off the pink stone that had been strung on it and dropped it into her reticule. She then threaded the button onto the ivory strip of satin and retied it around her neck, making sure the ornate button rested in the hollow of her throat. The perfect size she thought.
A minute or two later, Olivia and her mother entered the seasonally decorated ballroom of Falloway Manor and the butler announced them. Olivia scanned the faces of the fancy gowned ladies and splendidly dressed gentlemen, hoping to see someone familiar to talk to so she could leave the protection of her mother for a while. Yet, the first thing that caught her eye was an apple red waistcoat partially hidden by a black evening coat. Her gaze traveled up the wide chest, over straight shoulders and past the perfectly tied white neckcloth to settle on the face of a gentleman. A sense of contentment settled over her. It was an odd sensation. She felt as if she were coming home to the most handsome man in the world.
Elliott Falloway knew the earl was still talking to him but he couldn’t take his gaze off the young lady who’d just entered the ballroom. She wore an ivory-colored, high-waist gown. Candlelight gleamed off her chestnut-colored hair. He couldn’t see the color of her eyes but he had no doubt they were dark, dreamy, and mysterious. She caught him watching her and smiled. A slow roll of pleasure curled inside him.
“Splendid Christmastide party, Falloway,” the earl said.
Elliott gave his attention to the earl. “Thank you, my lord.”
“In case no one else has been brave enough to mention it, I will. You may want to change your waistcoat. You’re missing the top button.”
“What?” Elliott looked down. The earl was right. Elliott felt around his chest, hoping to find it had fallen inside the vest. No such luck. He immediately scanned the floor at his feet.
“No use searching for it with all your guests in here,” the earl said. “If it’s on the floor, most likely it’s been crushed by someone’s heavy foot by now.”
Denial rose up in Elliott. “I hope not,” Elliott muttered, turning to examine the area behind him.
“Is it gold?”
“No, but it is priceless. The buttons have been handed down in the Falloway family for over a hundred years. I don’t want to be the first to lose one.”
“I don’t blame you. Well, I’ll leave you to it.”
Elliott glanced back to the front of the ballroom. The young lady was gone. No matter. He would find her in the crowd later. After he found the button.
Olivia wondered what her dashing host was searching for. Others might not have noticed but she had. She’d barely been able to take her gaze off him. She was an innocent when it came to the intricacies and bonds that were forged between a man and a woman, but she knew desire when she felt it. There was something about this man that made her feel wonderfully different when she looked at him. He must have felt something when he saw her, too. She’d caught him looking at her several times. They hadn’t been introduced, but perhaps it was time she asked Mr. Falloway if she could help him.
Finding the family heirloom had proved as difficult as the crotchety earl had indicated. It was almost impossible to see the floor with all the shoes, slippers, and the hems of gowns covering it. Elliott continued to try. He stopped to speak to everyone, looking around their feet as he did so, and then quickly moving on. He’d even had his valet search his dressing chamber when he went up to change his waistcoat.
Elliott remembered all the areas of the house where he’d been since dressing for the evening. There were the corridors, the stairway, the front portico, the drawing room as well as the ballroom. It was frustrating the button hadn’t been found. He turned away from the crowded room, looked at the warm fire and ran a hand quickly through his hair. Perhaps he could have done a better job of combing through the house if he’d hadn’t kept glancing up to look for the lovely dark-haired miss.
“Excuse me, Mr. Falloway.”
A warmth of peace settled over Elliott. That soft voice. He knew it had to come from the enticing young lady he’d been watching. He turned and she smiled. At that moment, somehow, without even knowing her name, Elliott knew he was going to marry her.
“I know we haven’t been properly introduced, and my mother would faint if she knew I’d shown such poor manners as to announce myself to you but I am Olivia Broadstroke. I couldn’t help but notice that you seem to have lost something. I thought perhaps I could help.”
“Miss Broadstroke,” he said and reached for her hand to kiss. His gaze fell to her throat as he gently grasped her fingers in his. There on her slender neck lay his missing waistcoat button.
How she had gotten it and why she was wearing it, he had no idea. It didn’t matter. He would find that out later. What he did know right now was that the button was safely in her care and he was certain it would stay in his family.
Hide the full Short Story ▲