Hello Gentle Readers! Welcome to another First Kiss Friday. Today I have a new to me author named Lela Bay. We hope you enjoy her excerpt. Take it away, Lela!
Thank you for having me, Sherry! It was fun to look back through my book for the first kiss. Since the book is two Regency novels, there’s quite a bit of tension before that first kiss. The first story, The Unusual Manners of Mr. Aarons ends with a sweet kiss. Virtue’s Temptation isn’t as coy and I love how it finally plays out.
Eleanor is a widow who stumbles across a girl running off with someone unsuitable. Much to her own surprise, Eleanor steps in and takes charge of irrepressible Bitsy. Fortunately, Mr. Stinson shows up in pursuit of Bitsy and they become allies attempting to chaperone her home with her reputation intact. The weather doesn’t cooperate. They stop their carriage at a roadside inn, and after supper Bitsy leaves Eleanor and Mr. Stinson at the table while she takes a bath.
“Virtue’s Temptation” in Ruined Reputations Excerpt:
“I should attend her,” said Eleanor.
Dropping his napkin, Mr. Stinson walked around the table. “She’ll be in her bath. Let her enjoy it. We should all take time to savor pleasures.”
Eleanor nodded, gripping the back of her chair. “I can’t thank you enough for your understanding. Bitsy is a good girl.”
“Bitsy is a child,” he said. “She has been coddled and maintained like a pretty doll, with all the sense that a head of stuffing can hold, but there is no malice in her.”
Since this mirrored her own opinion, she smiled faintly and took the arm he offered. He did not escort her out the door, as she had expected. Instead, he turned his gaze on her, and rather than chocolate his eyes reminded her of cups of Turkish espresso—heated and molten. She could taste the promise hidden in them.
She was experienced enough to recognize the question lying within. Had she been thinking—if the night had not been so quiet and her muscles so relaxed—she might have found the strength to make a small gesture. Lowering her chin, looking away, or brushing her hair aside to cover the longing written across her face would stop him.
She did none of these things. The intensity of his gaze held her.
He pulled her around and bent his head to hers, and she gasped. His firm lips moved across hers. She welcomed the heaviness of his embrace. The press of his chest promised to soothe the ache that made her arch into him and moan. His hands slid along her sides to her narrow waist and cupped the flare of her hips to draw her toward him.
She broke off, stepping back. His hands caught her skirt, letting her move away but keeping them connected with the soft layers of fabric.
“This is unseemly,” she said.
He raised an eyebrow. “It is what we both want.”
He stepped forward into the cage of fabric, yanking her to him with a fist twisted in the material, drawing the length tight against the naked skin at the back of her knees where her stockings ended.
She longed to throw caution to the wind—he must read the flickers of desire hidden in her heavily lidded eyes—but she couldn’t be weak willed.
“There can be no hint of scandal. Bitsy’s reputation may very well depend on the strength of my own. I cannot endanger the both of us,” Eleanor said.
“No?” he asked, feathering kisses along her jaw. His beard stubble scraped her skin like the rasp of a cat’s tongue, insisting on additional brushes. The first stroke incited a tickle that needed scratching, the next a rasp needed soothing, and finally the third brush ignited her skin and sent fingers of flame through her neck and into her tingling body. She gasped slightly, releasing a moan.
“No?” he asked again, regretfully. Her words had gotten through to him.
They pulled apart. He released her skirts, though the fabric hung twisted and wrinkled beneath her knees. She smoothed it, glancing upward at him. Her chest heaved within her tight neckline.
His eyes raced over her. With a groan, he turned away, gripping the chair she’d recently released.
She slipped out the door.
Bitsy had bolted their room from the inside. Sighing, Eleanor knocked and called to her.
Through the thick door Bitsy’s high voice sang, “Oh, darling, I’ve only just gotten started, and it is wonderfully hot. Can’t you come back again later?”
Mr. Stinson’s heavy tread at the base of the steps paused, as if he waited for Eleanor’s answer. She leaned her forehead against the wood of the door, fearing the heat from her body would burn a brand into the dry wood.
–The Unusual Manners of Mr. Aarons–
Rumors of Mr. Aarons unconventional ways are confirmed when he nearly yanks the bonnet off Emmaline’s cousin’s head. Drawn by his charm and good looks, Emmaline finds herself assisting him in his mysterious mission.
His obscure search appears to lead to her cousin, beautiful Catherine Connersfield. She is the more sensible choice, but will she have him? More to the point, will Emmaline let her?
Experience has taught Eleanor it’s better to be practical than passionate.
When she discovers Bitsy eloping with her French tutor, scandal threatens to ruin the girl.
To keep her reputation intact, Eleanor reluctantly chaperones the rebellious heiress.
Eleanor’s spotless character protects Bitsy, but behaving respectably proves difficult when tempted by the dangerously attractive Mr. Stinson.
If she fails it will end with … Ruined Reputations.
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Lela lives in a modest house with her husband, children, and pets. Despite living in the far north, she requires a certain amount of sunshine each day or she gets grumpy. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys strolling, gardening, reading, and tea time with friends.
She enjoys stories with intimacy and humor.
Follow Lela on twitter @bay_lela.
Lela Bay Links
Amazon Author Page: http://amazon.com/author/lelabay