First Kiss Friday – Confessions of a Courtesan by Elizabeth Charles

Today’s First Kiss Friday featured guest is Elizabeth Charles, author of historical fiction Confessions of a Courtesan.  Welcome Elizabeth!  Here’s the first kiss between Elizabeth Armistead and Charles Fox.

Dawn found me sitting in a closed carriage on the street outside Charles’s lodgings.  I prayed he’d had the sense to snatch a few hours sleep and not gone to the dueling ground straight from his club.  Wringing my hands inside my fur muff, I glanced at the shadowy figure of the doctor seated opposite me.  It had taken the payment of a very handsome fee to secure his services at such an early hour.

“Are you certain you have brought everything you might need?” I asked for the fifth time.

“Bandages …” The doctor betrayed his impatience with a faint sigh, but humored me — for the sake of his fee, no doubt.  “Compresses, laudanum, leeches — I am equipped for such aid as can be administered in these cases.”

“Very good.”  I glimpsed another carriage drive up to Charles’s door.  It must be Richard come to fetch him.  I knew Charles would have no one else as his second.

“Such aid as can be administered,” the doctor repeated.  “I make no promise what I can do if your friend suffers worse than a flesh wound.  A shattered bone, a vital organ pierced, a belly wound …” He shuddered.

“I do not expect miracles, sir.”  I refused to contemplate any of the horrible possibilities he mentioned.  “I only want to insure my friend gets whatever treatment will help him.”

A short while later, Richard and Charles emerged from the house, climbed into the waiting carriage and set off.  My coach followed through the still-dark streets of Mayfair to Hyde Park.  The morning was clear and cold, the grass whitened by a touch of frost.

The instant my carriage stopped, I scrambled out, not waiting for the doctor or coachman to help me.

“Bless me, what is this?” cried Charles when he spied me.  “The only person less likely than me to be out at such an early hour.”

He cast a dark look at Richard, who held up his hands.  “I did not breathe a word to her, I swear.  Go home, Mrs. Armistead.  A field of honor is no place for a woman.”

“Honor?” I cried.  “What honor can there be in such dangerous folly?  Make peace with the man, Charles, however you must.  Then come back to my house for a good breakfast.”

“A tempting offer, my dear, but if I try to satisfy Mr. Adam, there will be no end to it.  I must stand by what I said in the House, for it was true and I meant it with all my heart.”

When I tried to argue further, he shushed me.  “I am deeply touched by your coming here at this hour, but I must ask you to leave and not distress yourself further on my account.”

The depth of my anxiety surprised me.  It surpassed even my fears for Richard when he had gone to war.  “How can I leave now, fearing the worst?  I have brought a doctor to tend you in case you are injured.  I pray you will have no need of him.”

“So do we all,” Richard muttered grimly.  “Come, Charles, let us have this over with.”

Tucking a slender wooden box under his arm, he stalked toward a pair of men waiting beneath a nearby tree.

“If you insist upon staying,” Charles flashed me an impish grin, “might I have a kiss from you … for luck?”

His request took me by surprise, though not nearly so much as my own compelling need to agree.

I leaned toward him for a brief peck.  But there was something fond and sweet in the touch of his lips upon mine that made me feel like an innocent young girl with her first bashful swain.  I believe he felt it, too.  For when we drew apart, he inhaled a deep breath and swayed on his feet, as if made dizzy.

“Upon my word,” he murmured.  “You shall make me want to provoke a duel every week.”

“Do that,” I cried, “and I shall never speak to you again, let alone kiss you!”  Then I relented a little.  “But I will give you another if you survive this duel.”



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