Welcome to another First Kiss Friday. Please help me welcome my dear friend Caroline Warfield who will give you an excerpt from her novella Candles in the Dark from the Bluestocking Belles’ box set, Valentines From Bath! Happy reading and enjoy.
The bad leg—acquired at the Battle of Toulouse—doesn’t stop Doug Marsh from coming to the aid of Esther Hopkins when her employer at the Bath Assembly Rooms imposes himself on her. He has been afraid to court a woman so far above his station, but the woman herself has other ideas.
She turned to Doug with wide eyes, her hand fluttering down to her side. He reached out and cupped her cheek to sooth her. “He’s gone,” he whispered.
She nodded, a swift bob of her head, and he worried for a moment she might fall to pieces.
He kissed her brow and the spot next to her eye, murmuring reassuring nothings. Her hands slipped up to his shoulders, and she clutched him as if she feared he would go away.
Never, he thought. Never.
Esther snuggled into Doug’s shoulder, unable to get close enough, wishing she could crawl inside him. One arm came around her waist to hold her in place; he moved the hand that held her cheek to the back of her head, his thumb caressing her neck. He paused for a moment as if asking for the permission he must surely know he had, lowered his mouth to hers, and covered her lips with his. He moaned when she opened for him with no encouragement and deepened their kiss, pulling her with him to lean against the wall for support. All thought of what had happened fled, and she kissed him in earnest, intoxicated with his scent and the feel of his hands.
Long moments later, Doug pulled his mouth from hers, leaned back in for one swift kiss and then another, and finally, tipped his head to lean, head and shoulders, against the wall facing her, his arm still pulling her close.
He sighed deeply. “Battle madness,” he said.
“What?” she jerked up. He soothed her back.
“Men go a bit mad wanting release after battle,” he explained, staring into her eyes. “Apparently women do, too. We could call this battle madness.”
Her lips curved upward. “We could, Sergeant Marsh, except I have wanted you to do that for a very long time.”
Candles in the Dark in
Valentines From Bath
Doug Marsh and his candles bring light to many, none more than Esther. They may light the Assembly Rooms even as his love lights her life.
Doug Marsh knew what the army expected of him. Invalided out, he struggles to run his uncle’s candle-works and look after those dependent on it. A contract with the Bath Assembly Rooms would go a long way toward succeeding at both of those things. The plight of a young woman is a distraction he doesn’t need.
Esther Hopkins, formerly ‘the Honorable’, has no time to mourn the life denied her by a single mistake. A woman alone with a new-born son to raise needs work, and she is determined to make it on her own. If only she could stop yearning for the sturdy arms and kind blue eyes of the man who rescued her from starvation and enlisted the entire Marsh Candle Works to her support. But Sergeant Marsh shows nothing but benevolent interest in her welfare. Why should he care for a fallen woman?
In the normal course of things Esther is far above Doug’s touch. Can he find the courage to court her and still take care of business at the same time?
Valentines From Bath:
A Bluestocking Belles Collection
The Master of Ceremonies announces a great ball to be held on Valentine’s Day in the Upper Assembly Rooms of Bath. Ladies of the highest rank—and some who wish they were—scheme, prepare, and compete to make best use of the opportunity. Dukes, earls, tradesmen, and the occasional charlatan are alert to the possibilities as the event draws nigh.
But anything can happen in the magic of music and candlelight as couples dance, flirt, and open themselves to romantic possibilities. Problems and conflict may just fade away at a Valentine’s Day Ball.
25% of the proceeds benefit our mutual charity, the Malala Fund.
About the Author
Caroline Warfield has been many things. Now retired to the urban wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania, she divides her time between writing and seeking adventures with her grandbuddy and the prince among men she married. Her new series sends the children of the heroes of her earlier books to seek their own happiness in the far-flung corners of the British Empire.
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