First Kiss Friday – Lady Elinor’s Escape by Linda McLaughlin

Today’s First Kiss Friday featured guest is Linda McLaughlin, author of Regency romance Lady Elinor’s Escape.  Welcome Linda!  Here’s the first kiss between Lady Elinor Ashworth and Stephen Chaplin.

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“Would you like to dance, mademoiselle?” Stephen asked.

She bit her lip in hesitation. “But I do not know how to waltz.”

His brows rose in surprise. “You have been tied to the hearth. However, all you need do is follow my lead. Shall we?”

Avec plaisir.” She allowed him to take her hand and lead her onto the floor. Her heart raced at the intimate feel of his hand at the small of her back. At first, he talked her through the steps, but after a few moments, she relaxed and gave herself up to the music and the pleasure of being twirled around the floor by the gentleman of her dreams.

He drew her far closer than was proper, but she didn’t resist. “Ah, mademoiselle, how am I to resist you?”

She smiled at him. “But, monsieur, you are not supposed to. For tonight, you are the handsome prince and you are required to fall in love with me.”

When the waltz ended, Stephen procured two more glasses of champagne. Elinor sipped it, letting the liquid cool her parched throat. Then, she let Stephen lead her downstairs and out into the moonlit garden for a breath of air. Her head was spinning, though whether from the champagne or the twirling motion of the dance, she did not know. She only knew she was behaving very badly tonight, drinking champagne, daring to dance the wicked waltz, and now this. Without the mask and costume, she would never have dared to act so. He must think her very fast, indeed.

They strolled along a path lined with rose bushes and stopped to drink in the fragrance scenting the air. The cool night air helped to clear her head, but made her shiver. Or was that caused by the warm look Stephen sent her way?

He ran a finger from her ear to her chin. “Will you remove your mask for me, Cendrillon? I long to know you better.”

Mais non, monsieur. It is forbidden.”

“Will you at least tell me your name?”

She smiled. He was her dear, inquisitive Stephen, but she had to find a way to avoid the question. She glanced around the garden and a line from Romeo and Juliet came to mind.

“My name is not important, monsieur. Was it not you who said, ‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’”

He broke into laughter. “Hoisted by my own petard, I see. You are a clever minx.” He leaned closer to her. “Is a kiss forbidden also?”

The word oui was on her lips, when she thought, why not? Had she not wanted him to kiss her at Hampstead? This might be her only opportunity to find out what it would be like to be kissed by him. “A kiss would be allowed,” she said, shocked at her own daring.

His mouth brushed hers, the mustache tickling a little. She let out a nervous giggle.

He drew back. “Do you find my kiss amusing?”

She touched his lips in apology. “No, but your mustache, it tickles me. It is not unpleasant, however.” In truth, it had been her very first kiss, but she doubted he would believe that after the way she was behaving tonight.

“Then perhaps we should try again.”

He drew her closer and she lifted her arms to his shoulders. Once more his mouth touched hers, more demanding this time. When she tentatively returned his kiss, he pulled her even closer until her breasts were crushed against his chest. Her heart pounded in rhythm with the music and her head spun as if they were still whirling around the dance floor.

He drew back slightly to stare at her, a look of naked longing on his face. With his thumb, he touched her sensitized lips, and then trailed his hand along her jaw and down her neck. Shivers of pleasure coursed through her. When he traced the low bodice of her gown, she sucked in a deep breath at the feelings his touch aroused.

“Will you let me leave with you at midnight?” he asked in a husky voice.

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