It was nearing Christmas. Snow was sprinkling the city a pristine white, Londoners cluttering the
streets as they shopped for Christmas presents. Joel and Dominique were shopping together of an
evening. It was the happiest holiday time Dominique could recall since her parents had been alive. Mrs.
Taylor had made the holidays as happy as possible naturally, but the lack of money provided little in the
way of presents and other extras.
Joel seemed to be making up for her lost years of happiness. He refused to listen to Dominique’s
requests to stop spending money on her. She wasn’t used to such extravagance and felt uncomfortable
allowing Joel to purchase her clothes and things for her home. But her pleas fell on deaf ears, and finally
Dominique faced the realization that Joel was set on spoiling her so she let him buy whatever he wished.
They stopped at a cozy restaurant and had supper, then listened to carolers out in the street. Joel’s
carriage was already practically full of boxes from all the purchases they’d made. He had insisted that
Dominique go Christmas shopping with him, for he was at a loss as what to get his mother and sister,
claiming that women were entirely too difficult to buy for. Dominique found the prospect quite
appealing and was excited to be able to buy the Hamptons Christmas gifts, for she had plenty of extra
money saved since she’d started working.
It was only after they finished buying gifts for Joel’s family that Dominique let him make any
purchases for her. He knew of her orphaned childhood and was aware that she’d not enjoyed many
frivolities in her young life. Joel yearned to be the one to spoil Dominique and make her feel as special
as she was to him.
“One more shop, Dominique, that’s all.”
“Joel, the carriage is already overflowing with gifts. And I dare say, if your intent is to buy me even
one more little item, I refuse to budge!”
“I’m sorry, but as I am providing the transportation, and you dare not walk back home in the snow
alone at night, you have no choice.” And with that, Joel grabbed Dominique by the hand and pulled her
into a nearby store, her soft laughter floating on the cold wind.
It was yet another ladies’ shop, and Dominique was amazed that Joel felt so at ease in a female’s
domain. But he was no doubt a regular customer, for certainly he’d bought such things for many females
before her. And although Dominique felt a certain attraction for Joel, and he for her, she had no doubt
they both considered each other only friends. Very dear friends. At least that’s what Dominique had
convinced herself. Joel hadn’t even once tried to kiss her during the course of the evening, although he
was thoroughly attentive and lavish in his spending.
He picked up a pretty silk scarf and held it up near Dominique’s neck, the back of his hand
inadvertently grazing her bodice. Dominique’s smile faltered a bit in nervousness at the subtle contact, a
shiver running up her spine. She could see by the look in Joel’s eyes that he felt it too––the extreme