First Kiss Friday – The Baron’s Quest by Elizabeth Rose

Today’s First Kiss Friday featured guest is Elizabeth Rose, author of historical romance The Baron’s Quest.  Welcome back Elizabeth!  Here’s the first kiss between Nicholas Vaughn and Muriel Draper.

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Blurb: Muriel Draper is the daughter of a merchant – a spinster – one who spins wool. In an act of desperation, she goes to the docks to sell her wares, and while trying to escape the baron she hides away on a ship – that ends up being the baron’s. Nicholas Vaughn is Lord of New Romney and a Baron of the Cinque Ports. And the last thing he needs is to find a stowaway aboard his ship who also happens to owe him a debt.

 

 

Excerpt:  Muriel hated this part of the ship. The horizontal planks over her head had spaces in between that allowed the water that splashed onto the ship to drip down atop her in the hold. It was a dark, dank, place and it smelled horrendously. She was also standing ankle-deep in filthy water. The bottom of her gown was soaked, making it heavy and hard to move. She heard a scattering noise on the crossbeam above her head and then a thump atop the barrel she was holding onto. She glanced up to see a rat almost touching her fingers as its whiskers came closer and it inspected her hand.

She pulled her hand away quickly, and held back the scream threatening to spill forth from her lips. She closed her eyes, not even daring to breathe. Finally, she opened her eyes slowly, only to find the baron’s face close to hers as he leaned forward over the barrel to see her.

“Oh!” The ship listed again, and she fell backwards in surprise. She fell on her bottom, now sitting in the filthy bilge water almost up to her waist. She’d managed to keep her travel bag above the wet floor, but at this point it probably didn’t make a difference.

“You just can’t seem to listen to orders can you?” he spat.

“I . . . I’m not on the docks,” she said and tried to fake a smile.

“Come on you little stowaway, this is no place for a girl.” He reached out and put his hand on her arm and pulled her to her feet. He did it with force, and the ship leaned back the other way at the same time. This caused her body to be offset, and from the added water weight to her skirt, she went barreling right into him. He put his other hand on her shoulder to keep her from falling. There was an awkward silence between them, with only the sound of creaking wood and waves splashing against the hull of the ship.

“I didn’t mean to be a stowaway,” she finally said. “It’s just that . . . you frightened me.” She looked up slowly, waiting for his outburst. But instead, the corners of his eyes crinkled and perused her as if he had never heard anything so ridiculous in his life. There was a slight stream of light coming through the plank floorboards overhead, and it fell across his face in a striped pattern, making him seem as dark and dangerous as he was handsome.

“I . . . scare you? Why? Have I ever done anything to you to make you feel this way?”

He almost sounded as if he cared. She liked that in a noble, as it wasn’t a trait for a man of his status to care about anyone but himself.

“I – suppose not,” she said. “Yet.”

He turned slightly and now the bright light from the open door of the hold shined against his face, letting her get a close-up view of this powerful man. His eyes were green like emeralds. His honey-colored hair was mixed with shades of ochre, falling almost to his shoulders. He had a slight blond stubble on his jaw. He was tall and foreboding, and she was sure he would be asking for her to pay her debt next. Her stomach churned just wondering how she would answer.

“A young girl like you shouldn’t be so bold. Don’t you know you are only asking for trouble by coming to the docks alone? I saw you earlier with that questionable trader. You are lucky I shouted out to stop him or he might have had his way with you.”

She knew better than anyone she had been acting reckless. And he was also right that she could have been ravished by the awful man in the end.

“Now, we have a matter to discuss that has to do with the two month’s rent you owe me,” he continued.

She knew she had to do something to distract him or he’d be taking the land from her next. She’d already lost so much that she couldn’t lose this too. So without thinking what she was doing, she reached up and threw her arms around his neck. Standing on her tip-toes she pressed her mouth against his in a passionate kiss.

 

Nicholas was taken by surprise when the girl boldly and foolishly reached up and kissed him. His hands automatically went to her waist, the way they always did when he found himself kissing a beautiful woman. She pulled away slightly, and though he knew he should be angry, instead, he found himself wanting to taste her again.

She was petite and thin-boned and had the alabaster smooth skin of a noble. While she had the manners of a peasant and the courage of a knight, with her head thrown back and her eyes closed she looked genteel, passionate, and much like a lady. Her long, golden hair was twisted into a knot and tucked up under a small cap she wore on her head. She had a mantle over her shoulders that didn’t quite reach the ground. And her formerly amber colored dress was now a dingy shade of brown, as he swore it had soaked up half the bilge water in the belly of the ship.

“What was that for?” he asked, running his tongue over his lips, savoring the sweet essence of her kiss.

Her eyes opened slowly, and her tongue darted out to lick her upper lip, and the action excited him to know she was relishing the taste of him as well.

“That was for saving me. From that – that awful man.” Her eyelids fluttered, and he realized she was only using this as a distraction, hoping he’d forget about the debt she owed. Well, if she wanted to play with fire, then he needed to teach her that she could get burned.

He pulled her closer, placing his lips against hers again, meaning to teach her not to play games. He figured he’d scare her and she’d pull away, but once again she surprised him by doing the opposite and returning his kiss. This time her tongue shot out and entered his mouth.

A moan lodged at the back of his throat and his loins stirred beneath his braies. What started out as a game was now turning into a lesson he didn’t want to stop.

 

 

 

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