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Fake Christmas Lexy Timms 2022/8/3 13:45:42

The panic started mounting. Gripped her until crazy, desperate thoughts flashed in her mind. Was he that unhappy with their marriage? Would he leave her? She shut her eyes, trying to think of a way to salvage this.

Because that was what she did. Fixed things. That was why she hadn’t wanted Dane’s help organizing Christmas. Now that she was a high-society wife, all eyes would be on her. Expecting her to deliver the perfect Christmas. It was a pressure that he didn’t seem to understand. And with that pressure came all the stress. All the worry. All her lies. She had given in to the pressure, and now it terrified her that the cost would be her marriage.

She chose her next words carefully. “I know things have been hectic. I’m not trying to push you away. Really, I’m not.”

When he released her hand, she had never felt so terrified of losing him as she did the moment he stopped touching her.

He sighed, an awful sadness flashing in his eyes. “I love you, Allyson. More than life itself. But... I don’t see how this marriage is going to work.”

Her heart squeezed at his words. It was like he was holding it in the palm of his hand and squeezing all the life out of it. “What? What do you mean?”

“I mean it feels like we’re losing sight of what’s important,” he replied.

“What are you talking about?” he interrupted sharply. “Of course not.”

Air forced out of her lungs. Breathe. She had to breathe. Her emotions were all over the place. And her nerves were completely fried from stress. No wonder she had assumed the worst. “So, what are you saying?”

“I’m saying that sometimes it’s good to reassess,” he explained. “Figure out if we’re on the right track. On the same page.” He closed his eyes and heaved out a sigh of exasperation. “Maybe I’m not making sense.”

“We’re not losing sight of what’s important,” she insisted. “How is wanting to get home to be with our families the wrong priority? Family is what Christmas is all about.”

“I’m your family, too, Allyson,” he said, opening his eyes. “I know being here isn’t what you wanted, but this is our chance to get some alone time.”

She buried her head in her hands. This was wrong. All wrong. Christmas wasn’t about being alone. It was about being surrounded by all your friends and family. Togetherness. Why couldn’t he see that? With a muffled groan she lifted her head and asked, “Did you spend a lot of Christmases alone when you were a kid?” Maybe something in this childhood would clue her in.

His corners of his lips tugged down into a frown. “I had my parents most Christmases. We’d vacation in upstate New York. Though there were some years when they were too busy with work, so I got shuffled off to other relatives.”

“Did that make you feel lonely?” she asked. “When they weren’t around?”

He shrugged. “Sure, I guess. Honestly, I probably felt lonelier when they were around. We didn’t have quiet Christmases when my parents were around. We’d host banquets—”

She made a face at the word banquets.

“Yes, Allyson,” he rushed on, “banquets. And it felt like all of high society was around. I never got a moment’s peace. I don’t know how many dukes, senators, and heiresses I had to talk to when all I wanted to do was be a kid. In a lot of ways, even though my parents indulged me, I got treated like an adult.”

“So that’s why you haven’t warmed to the idea of having so much family around for the holidays,” she said softly. Being paraded around like that must have been stifling for him.

“I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but I guess my upbringing is part of it,” he said. “Half the people we’re inviting over for Christmas are high-society types. And you know how I feel about most of them.”

She sighed. “This is such a mess. All I wanted was to be in New York tomorrow. That’s all I wanted.”