Welcome to another First Kiss Friday. For the month of March, I’m giving back to my San Francisco Area Chapter of Romance Writers of America as a few talented authors give us those wonderful first kiss scenes! I must admit, I wouldn’t be where I am today without these magnificent group of authors who go above and beyond to help out their fellow chapter members. To start us off this week, I’d like to welcome my dear friend, R.L. Merrill and her characters from Haunted. I think you’re going to enjoy this excerpt. Happy reading and take it away R.L.!
Thank you for inviting me to share my “First Kiss” this Friday! This kiss comes from my first novel, Haunted. I couldn’t decide which of my couples deserved this spotlight, so I put it to my goddesses on my street team and they overwhelmingly chose Devon and Jaylene.
Haunted is the story of a band from Houma, LA, who has experienced a terrible loss. The band hires tattoo artist Jaylene Charles to come stay with them in New Orleans and design a memorial tattoo. Jaylene helps the boys heal, and helps one man in particular move on from crippling grief to find hope and love.
This scene comes after a pretty big revelation… So I’m going to redact a bit to keep from posting spoilers!
Devon pounded on the door. “Jaylene, open up, please? I’m sorry. I should have told you. Please.”
I couldn’t hide in here forever but I was so embarrassed. I unlocked the door and trudged over to my bed, sitting with my back to him as he burst in.
“What do you want, Devon? Want to laugh some more?” I was too upset to speak over a whisper. I heard his footsteps coming closer and then he was kneeling in front of me.
“God, no. Jaylene. I wasn’t laughing. I would never laugh at you. I’m so sorry. I just assumed you knew… With all the big-mouthed jackasses around, I thought you knew. God, please just look at me.”
I couldn’t do it. His eyes were always too intense. I told myself I should never have let him get close to me. I was such a fool.
“Hey, chère. I’m sorry. Please? Say something.”
I bit my lower lip to keep from crying. I took in a breath. I couldn’t look at him right now. “Look. I don’t do this well, this…whatever it is we’re doing. I didn’t even want to get involved with you because I thought you were a widower. That’s what I was trying to tell you last night. I don’t play games and I certainly don’t like being the butt of someone’s jokes. So please, just leave me alone so I can process this little humiliation of mine in private?”
He sat back on his heels. “I’m sorry if we screwed up, Jaylene, but please don’t do this. I was going to talk…today. That’s why I had my mama bring the pictures. I thought it would be easier to explain her that way. If you’re upset, be upset with me. Everyone’s gotten so used to not talking about her in front of me. I guess they didn’t know what to tell you. I’m such an idiot. Please, Jaylene. I never meant for you to get hurt.” He put his hand out and rested it on the bed next to me.
I could hear the pain in his voice and I couldn’t bear to be the cause of it. Slowly I turned toward him and he looked up at me with worry. I gave him a weak smile. “At least no one made this into a blonde joke. Then I really would have had to kick someone’s ass.”
The relief sagged through him and he leaned forward, putting his head in my lap and grabbing hold of the sides of my thighs. “I’m so sorry, Jaylene. Please forgive me. That was a terrible thing for me to let happen.”
I gave in to my urge to touch his hair. It was exactly as silky as I’d imagined. “You didn’t do anything, Devon. I’m the one who jumped to conclusions…And then when I heard your song, it was obvious how much you loved her. I felt so guilty, thinking about how attracted to you I was when I was supposed to be helping you…I’m the one who made the mistake, not you.”
He sat up and grinned like he’d just won a prize. In this position, we were almost at eye level with each other. His powerful shoulders and long arms swallowed me. “You’re attracted to me?”
I groaned and he pulled me closer, so my legs had to part for his chest.
“Really? That’s what you took away from what I just said?” He was so on the money, though. I was incredibly attracted to him. With him this close, I was on fire.
He leaned in and kissed the bottom of my throat and then my chest. “So…you’re not attracted to me?”
I groaned even more dramatically and grabbed his face, forcing him to look at me. The sexy grin he had on his face froze me in place.
“Devon, you know damn well I’m attracted to you. I’ve been a mess since you first came to my shop and stood there with your sad eyes and your many smiles.”
His eyes lit up even further. “You were? But you were so professional. And then when you came here, you were so close to me, but not—you know what I mean? You asked questions but gave nothing away and I couldn’t tell if I was being out of line or not. But I couldn’t stop wanting to be close to you.”
I was growing dizzy with him so near. I wondered if I’d be able to handle more without spontaneously combusting.
I cleared my throat nervously and said, “Well, now you know. What do you have to say?”
I was shaking, I was so nervous.
He pulled me tighter to him, so our chests were touching and my thighs were spread wide to accommodate him. “I think what I have to say is that I’m dying to kiss you and I’m hoping you’ll let me.”
I licked my lips—and that was all the invitation he needed.
He was on me immediately. His full lips kissed me softly but with just enough pressure to let me know he was barely containing his passion. His arms locked around me and my hands tangled in his hair.
“Jesus, Jaylene, you taste so good. I’ve wanted this so much.” We were both shaking and breathing heavy. His eyes searched mine for any sign I wasn’t totally okay with this.
I brushed his hair back from where it had come loose. I’d never been this affected by a guy before. “I was afraid to want this.”
He grabbed my face in both of his hands. “Why?”
I didn’t know what to say to make him understand. “Devon, you don’t know me. The only guys who have ever shown interest before just thought I was someone I’m not. And I would never think someone like you would even want someone like me.”
He hit me with those eyes again. They penetrated me.
“Jaylene, you amaze me. You are so beautiful…who you are, what you create. Whenever I’m around you, that’s the only place I want to be, like the world could just fall away and that’s alright. Don’t you feel it too?”
I nodded. “I feel like I’m drowning. It scares me.”
A pained look crossed his face. “No, chère. Don’t be afraid of me, of this. Just be here, with me. Please?” He kissed me again. This time he started slow and then moved us back onto my bed. I was on my back with Devon holding himself above me. He slid his leg between mine and I ran my hands timidly along his back, under his t-shirt. His skin was so soft, completely at odds with the hardness underneath it.
And his lips were intoxicating. They were so full and feather-soft. He smelled so damn good. He was invading all of my senses, taking over, and I felt helpless to stop it.
He started to lower himself on top of me—and I started to panic. He was just so much, and while I wanted to be in this moment with him, it scared me.
“Devon, please. Just give me a minute.”
His eyes grew wide and he lifted himself off me. “Of course, chère. Are you okay? Is this okay?”
I nodded and he moved over to lie beside me. I curled up next to him and his arms pulled me close. This was truly the best feeling.
He unwound my hair that was starting to come out of the wrap I’d done this morning. He slowly unbraided it and ran his fingers through the mass, sending delicious shivers through me. We lay there in silence for a while and I felt peaceful.
“Talk to me, chère. Don’t keep me out.” He held me tight to his body. It was just as heavenly as I imagined it would be when I’d thought about curling up with him yesterday.
“I don’t mean to. I’m sorry. This feels really good.” He nuzzled my neck and kissed my shoulder. I guess that meant he agreed with me.
“This feels incredibly good. I could stay here forever.” I giggled at that.
“That would certainly get me in trouble with the guys downstairs. They’re expecting me to get you back with the program, not change the channel.” He chuckled.
“Whatever. They know I’m going to do what I said I would do. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to do what I want to do, too.”
I was smiling so wide my face hurt. “You are very loyal to them.”
He rolled over on his back and sighed. I turned and placed my head on his chest. He brought his arms around me and caressed my shoulder and my back, tracing lines with his fingers. “I guess it’s loyalty. I just do what I say I’m going to do. I wouldn’t bail on them. I just couldn’t come up with any new material and they started to panic. I didn’t feel it. What was I supposed to do? I know Marcus would just keep regurgitating the same shit, but I want us to grow.”
“You guys definitely have a distinctive style. But then you play stuff like you did last night, and that sounds terrific, too. Why does it have to be all the same? I think your fans will love you no matter what you play.”
He rolled over on his side to face me and rested his head on his hand. “Do you really think so?”
I nodded. “Of course! I know it’s hard to mix it up when you’re trying to establish your fan base but once you do, I think fans like to hear a little bit of mixing it up. I mean, think about Guns n Roses. Use Your Illusion was very different from Appetite for Destruction. And of course, Metallica! Their range has blown the doors off of what was expected of them.”
His face showed he was taking in what I’d said. He seemed to be working something around in his head. Then he narrowed his eyes at me. “You’re pretty incredible, you know that?” I rolled my eyes at him and he frowned, hard. “Why do you do that, Jaylene? I’m serious. I love how you always say what you think and don’t let anyone intimidate you. Even if it might not be the popular thing to say.”
I snickered. “Maybe that’s why I was never popular. I couldn’t stand the posturing. I liked what I liked. I still do.” I shrugged. “I never got people who said what they thought others wanted to hear. Not until I went through my grad program. Now I understand but it doesn’t mean I could ever do it.”
He kissed my forehead and continued to play with my hair. It was so relaxing. It helped to ease my anxiety. When he spoke, his deep voice rumbled against my ear and tickled me, giving me chills. “That’s why being with you is so refreshing. So many people who’ve been around us had their own agenda with our music or they were just hoping we’d give them a boost. They’d say anything sounded good, even if it sounded like shit. I mean, there was a time when I thought songs like ‘Mystical Stick’ were the height of sophistication…”
I giggled. I couldn’t hold it in whenever he talked about their more ridiculous songs.
“Oh, you think that’s funny? Better not tell Marcus. He’ll explain the whole concept to you, and why it’s highbrow entertainment. He’ll give you a thorough demonstration,” he said, as he made vulgar faces and gestures. I was really laughing now, and he started to tickle me. “Your laugh is the best medicine, I swear. I could listen to it all day.”
I stopped, suddenly self-conscious. I pushed myself up onto my elbows and looked into his eyes. “Who are you, Devon Boudreaux? Who are you and why are you in here with me?” I looked at him in wonder. I could see so much more than his pain, with him this close to me. He was a completely different person alone. One whom I liked so very much.
“I’m in here with you, Miss Charles, because it nearly killed me to see you so upset. I promise I won’t let that ever happen again. I don’t want to ever be the cause of that again. I just want you smiling and laughing and frowning at me. Even rolling your eyes at me. That part is kind of sexy.”
I gently slapped at his arm and he snaked his hand up my exposed skin and let his fingers drift along my side.
“And I want to see you blowing your bangs out of your face when you get frustrated. And I want to see your face relax when you sleep. And I want to see your eyes light up when I kiss you.”
He leaned in closer to me with his eyes open and staring into mine. He kissed me tenderly, his tongue gently urging me to let him in. I moaned and our tongues met and danced together, reminding me of how good it felt to dance with him last night. Everything about Devon made my body feel more alive. But he still scared me.
I pushed the fear to the back of my mind, where I vowed I would keep it until my time with him was up. I thought about what Mackenzie said and knew that being with Devon made me happy. And I wanted happy. I wanted him. I’d been alone for too long.
Haunted is available on Amazon
Once upon a time… A teacher, tattoo collector, mom, and rock ‘n’ roll kinda gal opened up a doc and starting purging her demons. Eleven self-published novels later, with more tucked away in her evil lair, R.L. Merrill is still striving to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after. You can find her lurking on social media, being a mom taxi, or head banging at a rock show in her home, the East San Francisco Bay Area!
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