Wish Upon a Star
By Kimberley Comeaux

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The cold crisp England air ripped through the garment Kristy wore as if she were wearing nothing. The velvet mantle flying with the wind behind her offered nothing in the way of warmth. And her bottom was getting raw from straddling the horses bare back, while the muscles in her thighs were crying in pain from clamping tightly around the mares middle and trying not to fall off.

All in all, Kristy feared she had made a hasty and stupid mistake.

Remarkably, no one had seen her as she rode off the grounds. Either they were too busy to look up or they were in their cottages. And now as she reached what looked like a road, she wasn’t all together sure just where she’d planned on going in the first place. If she just knew where Christiana’s uncle lived she could go there. But where in the heck was ‘yon hill’ as Nan had so "English"ly put it?

Her stomach growled in protest of the breakfast it missed, and she was shivering from the damp. October air. She nudged her mount on up the road and stopped when she came to a trail leading into the woods.

An idea began forming in her mind. She decided to hide out in the forest for most of the day and by the evening she would go back to the castle and hope that Darian the barbarian was gone by then.

Carefully she dismounted and smoothed her skirts back into place. As quietly as she could, she lead the horse into the dark trees and soon found a clearing where she was sure that she wouldn’t be seen from the road.

She sat on the cold, wet ground and wrapped her mantle tight around her shivering form. Good grief! But this place was spooky. It was broad daylight outside but where she sat there was only small rays shooting through the thickly leafed trees, making everything look dim. And Kristy was sure she heard every eerie sound imaginable the first fifteen minutes out there.

She felt a pair of eyes on her and she looked up to find the mare she’d ridden staring down at her. She snapped at her, "What are you looking at, you stupid animal? I know this was an idiotic idea. Wishes! Bah! I’ll never make another wish as long as I live!" She pulled irritatingly at the mantle trying to pull it closer, doing not a bit of good.

"Do you make a habit of talking to animals? Or were you referring to me?"

"No I don’t always talk to…" she started to answer the deep voice that came from the direction of her horse, but her heart stopped and her eyes grew round as she began to realize that horses don’t talk. That meant she now had company!

Jumping up she peered over her horse and met with a pair of cool gray eyes. Her eyes then took in the rest of him and immediately realized that this was the man she’d seen riding up to the castle this morning.

"You!" she cried, her eyes showing her surprise.

A dark eyebrow quirked up and the man, who was standing there with huge arms crossed over his chest, answered dryly. "Me?"

For a second she was too stunned to move. Never, never had any man (or any woman for that matter) spoken to her in such a condescending manner. And she was mad at herself for not standing up to him, but some sane, common sense part of her seemed to remind her that she was living in a different time, in another part of the world. A world that didn’t have the ideals that were bred in her all her life, ruled by men who looked at woman as nothing more than a vessel for breeding their offspring and treated as second class citizens.

For now she decided to back down, but just this once. Once they reached the castle she would think of something else. Standing alone in a forest with a barbarian who could easily do her harm was not the time and place to pick a fight.

Kristy resentfully turned to her horse but nearly let out a groan when she looked at it’s bare back. How in the world was she going to find a graceful way to mount and ride without stirring his dander up again?

Too late! "What, may I ask, is now the problem?" his deep voice barked causing her to wince.

She stared up at him with narrowed eyes and a pursed set of lips. She’d run into muggers that were nicer than this big oaf! "You don’t have to yell at me, I’m not deaf. But you must be blind because if you could see, you would notice that I don’t have a saddle, Sherlock!"

Of course the ‘Sherlock’ totally escaped him, the rest of her words did not. "You to tell me that you rode out hear with a saddle?"

"I was in a hurry!"

A sudden picture of her appeared in his mind. He could almost imagine a pair of lily white, shapely legs as they gripped the sides of her horse, her tunic gathered high above her knees....With a determined forcefulness he shook his wayward thoughts to the back of his mind and concentrated on the problem at hand.

He swore then. Loudly and colorfully. "God save me from idiotic women!" He raged toward heaven, throwing his arms upward then letting them fall heavy against his legs.

In two seconds he was mounted on his horse and another two, he had grabbed her up with one arm and planted her sideways in front of him. This put her sitting much to close for comfort in his lap. He then slapped the mare’s rear and immediately it fled the direction from where they had come. With a nudge from his spurs they soon followed.

They rode in complete and very uneasy silence the whole way back to Cranbrook castle. And sitting across his legs as she was, totally unnerving her to no end. And it didn’t help that his brutish arm was clamped tightly around her waist, holding her body flush up against his rock solid chest. Consciously she held herself ridged, refusing to allow her head to rest against his neck.

An emotion that she wasn’t well acquainted with was surfacing at an alarming rate. It was fear. Fear, not from what she thought he might be capable of doing to her, nor from his callous threats. It was a fear of herself, what she was feeling, how her body was reacting being so close to him. Fear of how her heart wanted to reach out to him when she caught a glimpse of the well hidden unhappiness lingering in his eyes.

And that’s why she wouldn’t dare relax her head and give in to him. Because she felt once her cool cheek pressed against the warmness of that thick beautiful neck she would lose the will to fight this marriage. He was the type of man a woman could lose her heart too. But he was most certainly the type of man that could easily rip that same heart to pieces.

A stubbornness appeared in her blue eyes and a streak of pride came nudging through to the forefront of her thoughts. Besides, she soundly reminded herself, the man is a total cad. He walks about on God’s green earth as if all it’s inhabitant should bow down and obey his every command. So what if he’s drop dead handsome. Big deal! Pretty is as pretty does, as her grandma so often reminded her, and so far his personality hasn’t exactly come up smelling like roses!

Remember that Kristy, remember that! But her resolve slipped a notch as she felt his warm breath as it gently touched her ear.

She clenched her eyes tightly and pleaded inwardly, Jubal, please get me out of this!

Jubal, looking down on the couple as they entered the castle gate from his perch up in the heavens, just smiled a smile that said ‘everything is working as planned’..... and remained… silent.

 

********

The time had come. With a sinking heart, Kristy felt the weight of what was now going to happen bear heavily upon her. How could she have known? How could she have known that a silly impetuous wish would have sent her to this unbelievable fate! It had all the makings of a Twilight Zone episode. But this wasn’t TV and Rod Serling wasn’t around the corner recounting the details. This was real. Bizarre. But, unfortunately, real.

And in just a few short minuets she was to become the Countess of Greystone. Correction, Christiana was becoming a countess, but until she could convince Jubal to ship her out of her and back to the twentieth century, she was Christiana of Cranbrook whether she liked it or not.

When they had returned to the castle, she had made one last ditch effort to persuade Lord William that she was not his daughter. But the man obviously didn’t spend enough quality time to get to know his daughter or either he was too distraught over losing Christiana to such a threatening man, because Kristy was sure that her parents would have known right away that someone had switched places with her, dead ringer or not!

But then again, being that Christiana was so obviously given to theatrics, her story merely sounded like a desperate final ploy to escape this unwanted union.

Nan stepped back, looking Kristy over and admiring the wonderful job she had done on making her into a beautiful bride. "Well, milady, at least you look from the outside like a proper bride for an earl, if only you would try to look a mite bit chipper and take that awful frown from your face. ‘Tis nothing you can do but marry the man and be done with it." she said with a sigh.

Kristy returned the sigh and looked with trepidation at the huge wooden doors leading into the small but charming chapel. "You’re right, Nan. I guess I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind it would take place whether I wanted it to or not, I just had to try." And hadn’t Jubal said that here whole wish would be granted? A wish that included the emotion of love? That and that alone gave her the only hope she could cling to.

"I’m ready to go in, now," she said with remarkable strength in her voice and tilted her chin upward in a show of determination. She had gotten through trials and problems before, she would get through this, too.

Lord William met Kristy at the doors and gave her a loving, fatherly hug and walked with her into the chapel.

Darian watched as the doors opened and his bride came walking in. From the outside, one might think he cared not a thought for the beauty walking to him with boldness shining in her crystal blue eyes. But from the inside, it clearly was not a case of not caring or not feeling for, in fact, it was just the opposite. But what exactly he felt, that Darian did not know. Lust, maybe? It could be. From the moment he laid eyes on her something ignited in him, the very sound of that soft voice stirred his blood and made him want to put his hands on her and taste of her lips.

Aye, that was lust. And that would be good. It would make it much more pleasurable to see to the task of getting her with child. And though she referred to him as a barbarian, he knew that she wasn’t totally indifferent to him. He could almost read her thoughts as they rode back this morning from the forest, as she struggled to hold herself ridged against him, unwilling to touch him more than she had to.

The thought of someday loving her never once entered his mind. To him that wasn’t an option or a choice. It just could simply never be. Only a fool would put total trust in another human being. Only a fool left himself vulnerable to the chance of being hurt. And after twice being made such a fool, Darian would not allow a third.

Kristy saw Darian’s dark glaze rake her figure from top to bottom and then back up again. There was definitely something different about this look in his eyes than before. Where his eyes this morning had been cold, now they were....Geez! They were practically blazing! She decided right then and there that she much preferred the cold ones rather than the ones she was staring into now. She felt like one of those poor lobsters in a restaurant tank that some hungry customer was eyeing greedily.

Forcing herself to look ahead at the homely but pleasant looking friar, she finished her march down the aisle, released Lord Williams arm and stood next to her betrothed. As she stood there, the whole ceremony seemed to go in slow motion, not seeming to make any sense. It just didn’t seem real.

For heaven’s sakes, just last night she’d been crying over being dumped by Cory and today she was getting married. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she still thought that at any time she was going to wake up and it was all going to be a dream. With sudden inspiration she reached down and gave her leg a good hard pinch.

Nothing happened. It has to be real. It’s not a dream. Or maybe I’m going crazy.....

She felt Darian stir beside her and she saw that his hand was stretched out to her, palm up. She looked at him curiously.

"Your hand, Christiana. For the ring..." he whispered, but not very gently. It was clear that he was irritated that she was not paying attention.

She mouthed an "Oh!" and placed her hand into his very warm one. She almost jerked it back in surprise. She expected it to be cold, not the warm, alive touch of a real human being. A real man....

The ring that he slipped on her finger was absolutely the most beautiful piece of jewelry that she’d ever seen. Nothing in all of Tiffany’s could compare to it. The ring was made up of thin, delicate gold wires, weaved into swirling patters that resembled dainty leaves. And embedded in the leaves were emeralds of the most brilliant shade of green.

She then heard the friar announce that they were now man and wife and said something about sealing the union with a kiss.

Kristy looked up nervously at Darian and saw that he was staring down at her with a strange light in his eyes. Oh Boy! He’s going to kiss me! Somehow that knowledge caused her stomach to flutter and her heart rate to quicken.

But her heart quickly resumed its normal pace. Maybe even slowed a bit....with disappointment. You really couldn’t have called it a kiss. It was merely a pressing of the lips, over and done with such a high rate of speed she wondered if they had touched at all. It reminded her of the kiss Billy Simmons gave her in the third grade at recess.

But that kiss had sealed her fate. She was married. She was no longer a model with schedules, long tiring working hours, and no time or privacy for herself. She was a wife. No longer Kristy Kendrick, but Christiana, Countess of Greystone.

Her wish had come true.

Almost...

Because what was being a wife without the love to go along with it. She could have accomplished this much in the twentieth century. Men all over America would have married her if she’d ask any of them. But it wouldn’t be her they wanted but the image of Kristy Kendrick, the model who had graced the cover of the bathing suit edition of their favorite sport’s magazine, clad in that peep show of a bikini they had put on her. Those men wouldn’t care what her favorite songs were or whether or not she like Chinese food. Or that she like to take long walks in the mornings, with not a bit of makeup on, clad in old gray sweats.

Would Darian ever come to care for her, or would he stay that cold, unmerciful hard man that she had come to know? And could she be happy living in a world totally alien to her? Could she leave behind her sister and her successful career? Would it be enough just to have Darian’s love?

She sighed as they left the chapel and rode out into the sunshine.

Right now, she wasn’t sure about anything.

 > Go to Chapter 4


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