Jessica Hart

Mistletoe Marriage

Release Date: 2005

For Sophie Beckwith, Christmas this year means having to face the ex who dumped her and then married her sister! Only one person can help – her best friend Bram. Bram used to be engaged to Sophie’s sister. Now, determined to show “the lovebirds” that they’ve moved on, he’s come up with a plan: he’s proposed – to Sophie! It’s crazy, but it would only be pretend … wouldn’t it? Now their wedding day is here and Sophie’s feelings for Bram have drastically changed. Her deepest wish now is for Bram to say “I do” – for real!


‘I wish I could marry you,’ she said with a wistful smile.

Bram put down his mug. His mother’s clock ticked into the sudden silence.

‘Why don’t you?’ he said.

Sophie smiled a little uncertainly. He was joking, wasn’t he? ‘Why don’t I marry you?’ she echoed doubtfully, just to check.

‘You just said that you wished you could,’ Bram reminded her.

‘I know I said that, but I meant …’ Sophie was so thrown by the apparent seriousness in his face that she couldn’t now remember what she had meant. ‘I didn’t mean that we could actually get married,’ she tried to explain.

‘Why not?’

Her wary look deepened. What was going on? ‘Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?’ she said, puzzled. ‘We don’t love each other.’

‘I love you,’ said Bram, calmly drinking his tea.

‘And I love you,’ she hastened to reassure him, ‘but it’s not the same.’ She struggled to find the right words. ‘It’s not the way you should love someone when you get married.’

‘You mean you don’t love me the way you love Nick?’

Sophie flushed slightly. ‘Yes. Or the way you love Melissa. It’s different, you know it is. We’re friends, not lovers.’

‘That’s why it could work,’ said Bram. ‘We’re both in the same position, so we understand how each other feels.’

He paused, trying to work it out in his mind. It had never occurred to him to even think about marrying Sophie before, but not that it had, the idea seemed obvious. Why hadn’t he thought of it before?

‘If neither of us can have the person we really want, we could at least have each other,’ he tried to convince her. ‘It wouldn’t be like taking a risk on a stranger. We’ve known each other all our lives. You know what I’m like, and I know you. I’m not going to run away appalled when I discover all your irritating habits the way a stranger might do.’

Sophie paused in the middle of dunking a biscuit in her tea. ‘What irritating habits?’ she demanded.

‘Irritating is the wrong word,’ Bram corrected himself, perceiving that he was straying onto dangerous ground. ‘I should have said that I know your … quirks.’

She wasn’t going to let it go that easily! ‘Like what?’

‘Like the way you screw up your face when you’re trying to decide what you want to drink in the pub. The way you always say that you don’t want any crisps and then eat all of mine.’ He paused to think. ‘Those funny earrings you wear sometimes.’

Her mouth full of biscuit, Sophie put her hands up to her ears in an instinctively defensive gesture. Her friend Ella was a jewellery designer, and made all her earrings now. ‘What’s funny about them?’

Bram studied the feathery drops that trembled from her lobes today. They were relatively restrained compared to the weird shapes and colours she usually wore. ‘You’ve got to admit they’re pretty unusual,’ he said.

Sophie sniffed and reached for another biscuit. ‘Anything else?’

‘Well, there’s the way you eat your way through a whole packet of biscuits and then spend the rest of the evening complaining that you feel fat,’ said Bram.

Freezing with the biscuit half way to her mouth, Sophie saw too late that he was teasing. ‘Don’t you want to know what your irritating habits are?’

‘Tell me the worst,’ he invited.

‘You’re infuriatingly calm. You never make a fuss. You never get carried away.’ Sophie ate the biscuit anyway with a certain defiance. ‘I can’t imagine a situation in which you’d lose your cool.’

Bram looked at her. ‘Can’t you?’

There was a tiny pause and for some reason Sophie found herself picturing Bram making love with a vividness that was startling and more than a little disturbing in its clarity. He would be slow and sure to start with, but as the excitement built, yes, he might lose his cool then …

To her horror, Sophie realised that she was blushing. It didn’t seem right to be thinking of Bram in that way. She took another biscuit to give herself something to do.

‘OK, I’ll admit your habits aren’t as irritating as mine,’ she said after a moment.

‘As irritating habits go, ours aren’t incompatible though, are they?’

There was another pause while Sophie eyed Bram, still half convinced that he was joking. ‘You’re not thinking about this idea seriously, are you?’

Bram was turning his mug between square, capable hands, studying it thoughtfully. ‘I might be.’

His eyes lifted to her face once more, suddenly very blue and keen. ‘Why don’t we face reality, Sophie? Neither of us has got a chance of marrying the person we love. We can live alone and miserable, or we can live together. Our marriage might not be one of grand passion, but we would have friendship, companionship, comfort. They count for something.

‘I need wife, to put it bluntly,’ he went on. ‘I need someone who understands the moors and isn’t afraid of being up here on her own, someone who can help me run the farm. A partner as well as a wife. And you … you can’t have what you really want either, but you said you wanted to come home. You said you missed the moors. You’ve always loved it here. You could live here all the time with me. Haw Gill Farm would be yours as well as mine. You could set up a wheel and a kiln in the steadings and start potting again.’

The blue eyes rested on Sophie’s face. ‘Neither of us would have everything we wanted, but we would have some of it. Perfect happy-ever-after endings are for books and films, Sophie. We wouldn’t be the first people to compromise, to settle for good enough rather than the best.’

‘Compromising means giving up on your dreams,’ Sophie pointed out.

‘It means having something instead of nothing,’ countered Bram.

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