The Mistletoe Kiss

By: Janet Lee Barton
Chapter One

New York City, Heaton House, September 1897

Mathew Sterling entered the parlor at Heaton House surprised to find only the other male boarders gathered there, having just parted ways after the baseball game to get ready for dinner on time.

“Are we early?” he asked, looking at the clock on the mantel.

“No, we aren’t, but dinner is going to be late. Mrs. Heaton said the ladies should be arriving soon and we’d sit down to eat shortly after they get home,” Joseph Clark said.

“Where are they?” Matt asked. It wasn’t like any of them to be late to a meal unless they were working. “Did they go shopping?”

“Perhaps, but Mrs. Heaton didn’t say,” Stephen Adams explained. “Just that we’d eat when they got back. I hope it’s soon. I’m hungry. I know I had those Cracker Jacks at the game but they don’t hold one forever.”

“No they don’t,” Matt said. He’d enjoyed his day off going to the Giants game with Stephen and Joe. But the weather had been so nice, they’d walked back from the Polo Grounds where the game had been played, and all that walking mixed with the cool crisp air made him even hungrier than normal.

They heard the front door open and the three lady boarders entered—Matt knew because he’d come to recognize Millicent’s tinkling laugh anywhere. They seemed to be quite excited about something, from all the chattering going on between them.

Then suddenly everything went quiet and Julia Olsen, the boarder who’d been there the longest, peeked into the parlor. “We know we’ve kept you waiting for dinner. I’ll go tell Mrs. Heaton we’re here now.”

“Sorry we’re late.” Millicent Faircloud hurried into the parlor. She looked very pretty, her cheeks flushed and her deep blue eyes sparkling. It was evident she’d enjoyed the outing.

“We’re glad you’re finally here. We’re starving,” Stephen said.

“I don’t see any packages—you didn’t go shopping?” Matt smiled, thinking they’d gone to the Ladies’ Mile for the day. Shopping was one of their favorite things to do.

“No,” Emily Jordan answered. She was one of the newest boarders at Heaton House, along with Stephen and Joe. The three of them had moved in at the same time a few months earlier.

“Where’d you go, then?” Joe asked.

“We went to a suffrage meeting,” Emily offered. “First time I’ve even been to one. It was wonderful!”

“You went to one of those meetings?” Joe asked.

“They can be dangerous, Emily!” Stephen said.

“It was in broad daylight, gentlemen. Nothing happened,” Emily said. “I quite enjoyed it. Don’t you think women should have the right to vote?”

“Vote!” Joe exclaimed. “I—”

“How would you feel if we had that right and you didn’t?” Emily asked.

Her questions left both Stephen and Joe speechless for the moment and Matt turned to see Millicent shaking her head at Emily. “So you’ve brought Emily ’round to your way of thinking now, Millie?”

“I don’t control anyone’s thoughts, Mathew. If I did, I’d have changed yours by now.” Millicent came back at him. “Emily found out Julia and I were going to a meeting and wanted to know what they were all about, so we invited her to come with us.”

“Oh, I see and—”

“Dinner is served,” Mrs. Heaton said from the foyer. “Come along, all. I’m sure you must be starving by now.”

They all moved toward the dining room and Matt fell into step beside Millicent. “I don’t know why you—”

“Shush, Matt. No more talk about the meeting,” Millicent whispered. “We’ll never agree about them and we don’t want to upset Mrs. Heaton with our arguing. You know she doesn’t like any of that at her dinner table.”

Matt let out a huge sigh and gave a short nod of agreement. He loved their landlady. She was a mother figure to them all and no one liked seeing her upset. Besides, Millie, as he thought of her, was right, he couldn’t see them ever agreeing on the women’s movement. From what he’d heard about it, it wasn’t all about getting the right to vote; they encouraged women—even married ones—to be more independent. And how much more independent could Millie get—wanting to open up her own business? And why did it matter to him anyway?

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