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Claiming His Christmas Bride

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«Claiming His Christmas Bride» - Кэрол Мортимер

Carole Mortimer is one of Mills & Boon’s best loved Modern Romance authors. With nearly 200 books published and a career spanning 35 years, Mills & Boon are thrilled to present her complete works available to download for the very first time! Rediscover old favourites – and find new ones! – in this fabulous collection…She'll be his wife by Christmas!When wealthy interior designer Gideon Webber first meets Molly Barton he wants her more than anything! But not only does it appear that Molly is already another man's mistress, the other man is his brother…Three years later, Molly and Gideon meet again at Christmas. And this time Gideon's determined to take what he still desires…! With the tension between them simmering, Gideon's left with only one option: he'll claim Molly once and for all—as his Yuletide bride!
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Time seemed to stand still. The house was unusually quiet, with only the ticking of the kitchen clock on the wall beside them to tell the passing of time.

Time seemed to stand still. The house was unusually quiet, with only the ticking of the kitchen clock on the wall beside them to tell the passing of time.

Molly’s mouth had gone dry, and color warmed her cheeks as she saw Gideon’s dark gaze follow the movement of her tongue across her lips.

She could barely breathe, was aware of Gideon with every sense and nerve of her body—aware of him in a way she had never been aware of any man before.

What would he say, this man who believed she had been his brother James’s mistress, if the two of them were ever to make love and he discovered that she had never had a lover—that, at twenty-nine, she was still a virgin?

CAROLE MORTIMER was born in England, the youngest of three children. She began writing in 1978, and has now written an amazing 125 books for Mills & Boon®. Carole is married to Peter and she has four sons, Matthew, Joshua, Timothy and Peter Jr., and a bearded collie called Merlyn. They live in an old farmhouse in the English countryside.

Claiming His Christmas Bride

Carole Mortimer


About the Author

Title Page


















‘I REALIZE this is a christening, but isn’t it a little early in the day’s proceedings to be wetting the baby’s head?’

Caught in the act of raising the glass of champagne to her lips, Molly froze. Unfortunately, the bubbly wine in the glass didn’t freeze, too, slopping over the side to splash over her hand and down her wrist, instantly soaking into the sleeve of her jacket.

‘Even for you,’ that taunting voice added derisively.

Molly looked up indignantly, glaring across at the man who stood in the doorway watching her with hooded eyes so dark a blue they were almost the same colour as the iris.

Gideon Webber…!

She closed her eyes briefly. It had to be him who caught her guzzling a glass of champagne, didn’t it? It just had to be!

He was the reason she had sneaked in here for this illicit glass of champagne in the first place, knowing she was going to need every bit of help she could find to face him later on this morning.

Except it wasn’t later. It was now. And as she glanced back across at Gideon Webber she could see that same look of contempt on his arrogant face as had been there the last time she had seen him. The first as well as the last!

Not that the man looked any less lethally attractive than he had just over three years ago, when they had last met; his hair was that strange but attractive mixture of golden blond and molasses, his eyes that deep cobalt-blue, his nose long and arrogant, over a finely chiselled mouth, his chin square and determined. The last time Molly had seen him he had been wearing casual denims and a tee shirt, but today he looked even more arrogantly attractive in the formal dark suit and snowy white shirt, the latter complementing his golden tan.

Which he had no doubt recently acquired at some expensive ski resort—it was all right for some! Molly thought uncharitably.

‘And what’s that supposed to mean?’ she snapped, even as she put the glass down on the table. She reached into her bag to look for the tissue she had put in there earlier for emergencies, having decided she had to be ready for any eventuality today! The last thing she wanted was to start sniffing in the middle of her nephew’s christening.

Gideon Webber shrugged broad shoulders, the slightly contemptuous smile still curving that arrogant mouth. ‘You seem to be rather—fond of—the odd glass or six, shall we say?’ He arched mocking brows.

‘No, we will not say!’ Molly returned waspishly, stuffing the ineffectual tissue back in her bag. The sleeve of her jacket was still soaking wet. She just hoped it wouldn’t stain when it dried; she had paid a lot of money for the new suit she was wearing in honour of the day.

Gideon Webber grimaced unrepentantly. ‘We’ve only met twice—and both times you’ve had a glass in your hand!’

‘The last time it was Alka-Seltzer,’ she defended with another resentful glare.

‘So it was,’ he acknowledged with hard mockery. ‘I remember commenting at the time that you would probably have been better downing another glass of whatever had put you in that state in the first place!’

Molly drew in a sharp breath as he made no effort to hide his deliberately insulting tone.

She had been dreading today anyway, ever since Crystal had told her who Peter’s two godfathers were to be. But she had finally convinced herself that surely Gideon Webber was too polite to make any reference to their last memorable meeting. Obviously, in light of their present conversation, it was a totally erroneous assumption for her to have made about this—this—

This what? she questioned herself heavily.

Under any other circumstances she would have considered this man lethally attractive, ‘drop-dead gorgeous’, as some of her more colourful friends might have said. And he was gorgeous, no doubt about that—over six feet of lethal attraction. He just also happened to be one of the few people who had ever seen her the worse for wear because of too much alcohol…!

Time to take a bit more control of this conversation, she decided firmly. ‘Those were exceptional circumstances,’ she told him decisively.

He raised blond brows over enigmatic blue eyes. ‘And today?’

‘Oh, for goodness’ sake,’ Molly snapped impatiently.

‘At most, I’ve had two sips of champagne.’ She picked up the glass to take another assertive swallow. ‘That makes three now.’ She looked across at him challengingly.

He gave an acknowledging inclination of his head. ‘If you say so,’ he drawled.

Molly felt the colour enter her cheeks at this obvious scepticism as to the amount of champagne she had actually imbibed—a colour that didn’t exactly go with her blaze of rich Titian hair. But, damn it, the man was making it sound as if she were some sort of alcoholic who sneaked around swigging alcohol whenever there was no one else around—

Wasn’t that exactly what she had just been doing?

Well…yes. But—

She gave an irritable sigh. ‘I do say so.’ She nodded curtly. ‘I was just—it was only—’ Oh, give up, Molly, she advised herself self-disgustedly—While you’re not ahead! ‘Shouldn’t we all be leaving for the church?’ she prompted briskly.

‘Crys sent me in search of you for just that reason,’ Gideon Webber confirmed dryly.

Crys had sent this man to find her? But why not? Crys, of all people, could have no idea how much Molly had dreaded seeing him again. And that was the way she wanted it to stay!

She put the champagne glass down on the table. ‘I’m ready if you are.’

He gave a mocking inclination of his head before turning to open the door for her. ‘After you,’ he invited smoothly.

Molly straightened her shoulders, aware of that hooded gaze following every inch of her progress, knowing what he would see, too: a small redhead with warm brown eyes—eyes usually full of fun and laughter!—dressed formally today, in a dress and matching jacket, her legs shapely, the heels on her shoes a little high for comfort, but their colour exactly matching that of her suit.

‘Just one more thing,’ Gideon Webber murmured softly as she would have passed him in the doorway.

She raised wary eyes, suddenly tense. ‘Yes…?’ she prompted cautiously, wondering what the ‘one more thing’ he wanted to say to her could possibly be. Apart from mentioning their unforgettable first meeting, of course!

He gave a humourless smile, that gleam of white teeth looking almost feral. ‘Has anyone ever mentioned to you that women with red hair shouldn’t wear certain shades of pink?’

His remark was so unexpected, so insulting in view of the fact that she did have red hair, and that the suit she was wearing was pink, that for several seconds all Molly could do was open and shut her mouth like a goldfish in a bowl, with no actual sound passing her lips.

She had loved the style of the dress and jacket as soon as she’d seen them in the shop, but although she often did wear pink, had been a little unsure about this particular pale shade, debating long and hard while in the shop and trying the suit on whether or not it was actually the right colour for her. The shop assistant, probably sensing her uncertainty, and, in retrospect, probably feeling in danger of losing her commission on a sale, had assured Molly that she looked wonderful in it.

So much for wonderful!

Her eyes sparkled angrily as she turned to give Gideon Webber a haughty glare. ‘Most men would be too polite to say such a thing,’ she bit out scathingly.

Humour glinted in his eyes now. ‘Most men couldn’t tell you what any woman was wearing yesterday—let alone whether or not it suited her!’

He had a point there, Molly acknowledged ruefully, thinking affectionately of her stepfather. As long as her mother wasn’t actually walking around in something indecent, she was sure Matthew wouldn’t notice what Caroline was actually wearing. ‘I—’

‘Molly!’ Crys cried thankfully as she spotted them at the end of the hallway. ‘And Gideon,’ she added with even more relief, strolling down the hallway to link her arm with Molly’s. ‘We thought the two of you must have decided you didn’t want to be Peter’s godparents after all and run away together!’

Molly gave a disbelieving snort at this possible scenario, not even daring to look at Gideon Webber for his own reaction to the remark. She was easily able to guess at the derision that would be curling those arrogant lips.

Especially as she was wearing a shade of pink that clashed with her red hair!

Damn him for telling her that; she now felt decidedly uncomfortable in the suit, what little confidence the champagne had given her evaporating like mist.

But she still had the christening and the rest of the day to get through yet. After that she could scream and stamp her feet in the privacy of the guest bedroom on the third floor above them!

She and Crystal had been friends since schooldays, going their separate ways careerwise after that. Crys had become a first-class chef before opening and running a successful restaurant, as well as appearing in her own cookery programme, and Molly had chosen to go into acting.

Crys had also married three and a half years ago, that marriage tragically coming to an end when her husband, James, died of cancer only months later. But to Molly’s delight Crys had met and married Molly’s stepbrother Sam almost two years ago, and the couple now had three-month-old Peter James. Hence this christening, three days before Christmas.

The only fly in the ointment—in fact the only cloud on Molly’s present horizon!—was that Sam and Crys had asked her previous brother-in-law, James’s older brother Gideon, to be one of Peter’s godfathers. An honour, Crys had informed Molly happily, he had been only too pleased to accept.

Which had put Molly in something of a quandary. She didn’t have happy memories of her one and only meeting with Gideon Webber, and she was sure his own feelings towards her were somewhat less than cordial. But as she had already been asked by Sam and Crys to be Peter’s godmother, and had readily accepted, she could hardly turn round and tell them she had changed her mind because Gideon Webber was one of the godfathers, now, could she?

Of course she couldn’t, and so she had armed herself with every feminine weapon she could think of to give her the self-confidence she needed to face the man: new hairstyle, professional make-up, new clothes and shoes. Even a surreptitious glass of champagne to give her an extra boost! She just hadn’t taken into account the fact that Gideon Webber, like his younger brother, was an interior designer. And that he would instinctively know she was wearing a shade of pink that didn’t go with her red hair!

But at least Crys had interrupted the exchange, and spared her any further insults from the man.

In the rush that followed their mass departure, Molly found herself in a car with her stepfather on the way to the church in this ruggedly beautiful part of Yorkshire where Crys and Sam lived most of the time now.

Her mother and the second godfather had elected to travel with Gideon Webber in his dark green Jaguar, and Sam and Crys were travelling separately with Peter James.

Merlin, Sam’s Irish Wolfhound and Peter James’s guardian from the very first day the baby had arrived home from the hospital where he had been born, sat forlornly on the driveway, watching their departure with the obvious intention of waiting there until they returned with his precious charge.

‘Matthew, what is Mum wearing today?’ Molly prompted casually.

‘Wearing?’ Matthew repeated frowningly as he concentrated on following Sam’s car the short distance to the church.

‘Yes—wearing,’ Molly confirmed dryly. ‘As in colour?’ she added helpfully.

Her stepfather’s frown deepened as he obviously gave the question some thought. ‘Well,’ he finally said consideringly, ‘it’s a sort of blue thing. Or possibly green. A dress, I think. Or it might be a jacket and skirt. In any case, I’m almost certain it’s blue or green,’ he added, with a decisive nod of his head.

Molly had already seen her mother on her arrival a little over an hour ago, and knew for a fact that the ‘blue or green’ suit, of whatever description, was actually a dress and long jacket in a beautiful shade of turquoise. Which, to most men, probably could be described as ‘blue or green’…!

And that, in Molly’s estimation, just went to prove that Gideon Webber wasn’t like other men!

Well, she already knew that, Molly acknowledged with a sigh as she turned to look out of the car window at the Yorkshire Moors.

How she wished today were already over. Then she could get on with enjoying Christmas with Crys, Sam and baby Peter James. Her parents were leaving tomorrow on an extended cruise to somewhere warmer than England—which was probably just about anywhere in December—and so wouldn’t be here for the holidays, which was why they were having the christening today, before the parents’ departure for warmer climes.

After all, what was it? Molly reasoned with herself. One day. Not even that, really. Just a few hours. And then Gideon Webber would depart and the four of them could get on with anticipating Christmas.

But those next few hours, spent in Gideon Webber’s acerbic company, could feel like a lifetime if he continued with the insults!

‘Glass of champagne?’

Molly turned frowningly towards the sound of that voice, her frown dissipating as she recognised David Strong, an actor who starred in a television series written by her stepbrother, Sam. David was Peter’s other godfather.

Tall, dark and ruggedly handsome, aged in his early forties, David brought his own brand of charm to the television series Bailey. But he had been widowed several months ago, when his wife had been killed in a car accident, and the sadness in his eyes and the lines beside his mouth, despite the warmth of his smile, were testament to his recent grief.

‘Thanks.’ Molly accepted the glass he held out to her. Having met David socially several times before, she was perfectly relaxed in his company.

Though she couldn’t repress her furtive glance around the room to check whether or not Gideon Webber was watching her accept the glass of champagne, and she frowned her irritation as he raised his own glass of what appeared to be sparkling water to her across Crys and Sam’s crowded sitting-room.

Molly turned quickly away from the easily discernible mocking humour in those dark blue eyes, the unbecoming colour once again flooding her freckle-covered cheeks. Damn the man. What was he? A one-man vigilante on the consumption of alcohol? Or was it just her consumption…?

Probably, she accepted heavily, wishing once again it had been anyone else but him who had seen her condition on that morning just over three years ago.

Although the world of acting was very often awash with the stuff, Molly very rarely drank alcohol herself—had found that it didn’t mix with early set calls or late-night theatre appearances. Which was probably why the downing of that bottle of wine just over three years ago had completely knocked her off her feet!

But there had been good reason for that, she reminded herself defensively. Knowing yourself in love with a married man—a married man who assured you he had every intention of remaining that way—would induce any sane woman to turn to the bottle. Besides, it had only been one measly bottle of white wine—not the whole crateful Gideon Webber seemed to be implying!

Did wine come in a crate? she wondered illogically, or—?

Get a grip, Barton, she instructed herself severely, determinedly turning her attention to David Strong. After all, he was almost as good-looking as Gideon Webber—and much nicer to boot!

‘It’s good to see you again, David,’ she told him warmly.

‘And you.’ He nodded, brown eyes crinkling at the corners as he smiled. ‘Although from what I hear we should be seeing a lot more of each other in the near future…?’ He raised dark brows questioningly.

Ah. Obviously someone had told him. Possibly Sam, as a courtesy to the leading man in his award-winning television series? Or had the secret leaked out in some other way? Probably the latter, she accepted ruefully; the supposed secrecy of the acting world had more holes in it than a sieve!

She gave David a quizzical smile. ‘Do you mind?’

‘Not at all,’ he answered easily, giving her the famous grin that had made him such a hit with female television viewers. ‘I think it’s past time Bailey had a more permanent love-interest in his life,’ he added reassuringly.

That wasn’t quite what Molly had meant by her question. It was one thing having the writer of a television series pop up in the studio whenever he felt like it—as Sam often did—it was quite another to have that writer’s stepsister appearing in the series with you. As the main character’s permanent but definitely whacky girlfriend!

Molly had been working mainly in American theatre the last few years, with the occasional television role thrown in, and until recently had had every intention of remaining out there. But a couple of months ago Sam had sent her the first script he had written for the new Bailey series, due to begin filming in the New Year, along with a cryptic message. ‘As I wrote the Daisy role based on you, only you could possible play her! Come home. I need you.’ Enough to evoke anyone’s curiosity.

Although Molly hadn’t been quite so sure after reading the script of that one episode!

The character of Daisy was an outgoing, dangerously inquisitive private detective, endearingly naive when it came to the vagaries of human nature, and most of all accident-prone—to the point where objects—usually bodies—seemed literally to throw themselves in her path for her to fall over.

Based on her? she had wondered, slightly dazed. She was outgoing, yes, and could be slightly eccentric, yes. But she wasn’t too sure that any of the other character traits fitted her, no matter what Sam might think to the contrary…

But the director of the programme had seemed happy enough with her audition when she’d returned to England a couple of weeks ago, and hadn’t hesitated about offering her a contract to cover the next Bailey series.

She had thought that particular snippet of information hadn’t yet been leaked, but obviously she was wrong; it was one of those well-guarded secrets that everyone knew about!

‘I actually meant, do you mind that I’m going to appear in the Bailey series with you?’ Molly corrected ruefully.

David raised dark brows. ‘The director assures me you were brilliant at your audition; why should I mind?’

She gave an awkward shrug. ‘Well…Sam is my brother.’ She pointed out the obvious. ‘And I wouldn’t like you to think—some people might think that had something to do with my getting the part.’ She grimaced.

‘The word you’re looking for is nepotism,’ drawled an insulting voice.

Gideon Webber’s voice. Of course. He seemed to lose no opportunity to insult her.

Was it acceptable for the godmother to hit one of the godfathers at a christening party? Molly wondered angrily.

Probably not.


‘Gideon!’ David greeted the other man warmly—giving Molly the necessary time to clasp her hands tightly together in order not to give in to her initial impulse, after all. ‘It’s really good to see you again,’ the actor added smilingly.

Again? Molly wondered frowningly. Since when did television actors’ and interior designers’ paths ever cross? Never, or so she had hoped when she had decided on this move back to England. Although it now appeared she might have been wrong about that…

‘You can forget nepotism,’ David added with a grin. ‘From all accounts, this little lady can act her socks off.’

‘And any other part of her clothing. Or so I’m led to believe,’ Gideon Webber returned dryly.

Molly’s gasp of indignation was lost in David’s roar of laughter. Obviously he thought the other man was just joking. Molly knew better.

She looked up at Gideon Webber with narrowed eyes. His expression was openly scathing, and the colour slowly crept up into her cheeks. Exactly what had he meant by that remark?

‘How did you know she has to take her clothes off in episode four?’ David prompted the other man humorously.

Gideon’s gaze didn’t waver from Molly’s as he answered the other man. ‘Just an educated guess.’

Molly had no privacy to digest what David had just said. She had to take her clothes off?

Having only returned from America a couple of weeks ago, and been busy since then moving into the flat she had found in London, there hadn’t been time yet for her to read any of the other episodes in the new Bailey series.

She didn’t have a bad figure, definitely had curves in all the right places, but nevertheless Molly wasn’t sure she wanted to take all her clothes off for public display. Even with someone as nice as David.

And, if the derisive look on Gideon Webber’s face was anything to go by, he didn’t think her body was good enough for public display, either…


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