Hello, my lovelies, and welcome to my First Kiss Friday blog. Today’s guest is my friend Jessica Cale who has a new story out in The Nightingale and the Lark, featured in the Regency in Color anthology. Isn’t this cover just heavenly? Read on for Jessica’s excerpt and be sure to read all the way to the end for her giveaway. Happy reading and good luck on her giveaway!
“You look so panic-stricken.” Frank smiled at her in the moonlight. “I knew you were a lady the moment you walked in the door.”
Oddly, that didn’t calm her a single bit. “You did?”
He stopped hiding his laughter. “Obviously. How many fishwives do you think look like you?”
Andie folded her arms. “What do you mean by that?”
Frank snorted. “Beautiful. Elegant. Queenly.” He rolled a hand as if making a bow to a monarch. “Your borrowed clothes aren’t fooling anyone. I’ve known opera singers my whole life, and not one of them brought the light with her when she walked into a room like you do.”
Her breath caught. “You think I’m pretty?”
This was usually the part when tonnish lords fell all over themselves to quote sonnets and praise her with flowery, impersonal cliches.
“Pretty?” Frank emitted an ungentlemanly snort. “No, darling. I’m saying you’re the goddamned sun.”
Andie didn’t know what to say. No man had ever said anything like that to her and meant it. She’d gotten her fair share of awful poetry over the years—as it happened, nothing rhymed with Archambault—but none of it meant half as much as knowing that Frank Creighton saw her like that.
“You just swore,” she said dumbly, kicking herself as soon as it was out.
“I blame the rum.” He stubbed out his cigar. “I blame the rum for this too.” Frank stood abruptly and crossed to the other doorway. He opened it a crack, and music from the theater spilled out into the night. He grabbed the bucket beside the door and brought it back to where Andie was sitting. “How do you feel about birds?”
Andie sat back, bewildered. She’d thought he might kiss her, and now he was talking about birds. “I beg your pardon?”
Frank finished his rum in a single gulp. “Sunflower seeds.” He tipped the bucket in her direction so she could see the contents. It was indeed filled to the brim. “Take a handful. I want to show you something.”
She looked at him with suspicion. What was wrong with this man? “All right…” She reached into the bucket and filled her hand with seeds.
Satisfied, Frank took two great fistfuls for himself. “Hold your hand a little loose and shake them so they rattle. Are you ready?”
Andie wasn’t at all sure about this, but at the joyful urgency in his eyes, she acquiesced. “Ready.”
She followed his lead as he shook the seeds for about five seconds, then they both tossed them toward the edge of the roof.
Within seconds, they were surrounded by a whirlwind of black feathers. It was so sudden and overwhelming that Andie screamed. Dozens and dozens of crows swooped around them in circles until they settled on the seeds, seizing them from the floor and picking them out of the thatch.
Andie doubled over in fits of laughter, tears streaming down her cheeks as she struggled to catch her breath. “I thought you were joking!”
Frank chuckled at her response, looking a little too natural surrounded by a hundred crows under the full moon. “I never joke about crows.”
Andie playfully swatted his shoulder, and Frank caught her hand and held it to his chest. When she didn’t pull away but stepped closer, he wound an arm around the small of her back and led her around the roof in a sort of improvised waltz to the music coming from inside. Her cheeks ached from smiling as he spun her under the moon, crows fluttering away to avoid her feet. As he caught her in his arms, she met his gaze and she knew.
She curled her fingers into his crisp white shirt and whispered, “You are quite mad, Frank Creighton.”
His eyebrows drew together, and she was treated to a slow, crooked smile. “You have no idea.”
Grasping his collar in her hands, she stood on her tiptoes and kissed him.
It was a bad idea, the worst idea—she couldn’t have explained why she did it other than that she had to. He was the most exhilarating, infuriating, impossible man, and every nerve in her body was screaming at her to kiss his ridiculous face.
Frank didn’t seem to mind. Gathering her up in his arms, he returned the favor with interest. His kiss was like his music—instinctive, passionate, and casually skilled. Though Andie had very little experience with men—and certainly no one like Frank—kissing him felt as easy and essential as breathing.
The chill of the night seemed to disappear as she pressed herself against the heat of his chest, burying her fingers into the unruly waves of his hair. He tasted of salt and rum, the heady scent of good tobacco still hanging in the air.
In the back of her mind, she was acutely aware that this was expressly forbidden; ladies of her class had been compelled to marry for less. If anyone caught them up here, her reputation would be ruined along with her sister’s marriage prospects. Worse, if things went wrong, her career could be over before it truly started.
She knew. She knew, but for now, just for this moment, none of it mattered.
After a lifetime of sacrificing her own wants for the comfort and convenience of others, kissing Frank Creighton felt like a radical act, the first and only time she had not only expressed what she wanted but had outright taken it.
The heavens opened, moonlight spilling over them. She heard the sound of angels’ wings—or perhaps that was still the crows—followed by the sudden end to the music and a deafening roar of applause.
It was the applause that finally pulled Frank away. He held her gaze, the dreaminess in his eyes giving way to mortified horror. “Oh, shit.”
With one last lightning-fast kiss, Frank took off running. Andie had never seen someone move so fast. He flew down the staircase, jumping over the last several steps, and thundered to the central staircase. Andie followed at a rather more sedate pace, reaching the top balcony just in time to see him skid to a stop on the stage below.
Frank straightened his shirt, pulled a brace back up on his shoulder, and ran a hand through the mess of his hair. “The Spider Dance, everyone!”
Clearly knowing exactly what he’d been up to, the cheer that closed the show was at least half whistles and raucous laughter. Frank made a face and laughed at himself, spreading his arms wide and taking a bow. He looked up and met her gaze, and Andie could see his face was red.
She didn’t think it was possible, but she’d managed to fluster Frank Creighton.
The Nightingale and the Lark, by Jessica Cale
featured in the Regency in Color anthology
Andromeda Archambault has it all. An heiress and daughter of a French marquis, London is her oyster, but to pursue her dream to sing professionally—and free of her family’s influence—she’ll have to leave the West End for the bright lights of…Shoreditch?
The Crow’s Nest is a crumbling Elizabethan behemoth owned and operated by the eccentric Frank Creighton, a director with more than one skeleton in his closet. He knows Andie’s talent when he sees it, but if his Phantasmagoria doesn’t scare her away, his reputation and his relatives surely will.
Will Andie make a name for herself before her mother figures out where she is? Has Frank finally met a woman more interesting than his piano? And crucially, will they be able to get their act together before the re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo at Vauxhall Gardens? Find out in The Nightingale and the Lark
Regency in Color is available on Amazon and via Kindle Unlimited: https://www.amazon.com/Regency-Color-Collection-Gabrielle-Carr-ebook/dp/B08NSYMBY8
About the author:
Jessica Cale is a romance author, editor, and historian based in North Carolina. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a BA in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She is the editor of Dirty, Sexy History, and you can visit her at http://www.dirtysexyhistory.com.
Instagram: @caleisafourletterword and @dirtysexyhistory
Giveaway! Comment for a chance to win an e-book copy of Sleeping Evie, a Victorian reimagining of Sleeping Beauty set in the Pre-Raphaelite art scene of 1870s London. You can also find it on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited here: https://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-Evie-Lady-Gooseburys-Tales-ebook/dp/B085DD9J4V