It’s always a pleasure to have my friend Jude Knight back on my First Kiss Friday blog. Today Jude is sharing an excerpt from her novel To Mend The Broken Hearted. Enjoy and happy reading, my lovelies!
Had she not been equally frustrated, Ruth might have been amused at Val’s valiant attempts to hide his dissatisfaction with the additions to their company. She had planned to allow him the kiss she hoped he wished to steal.
Her spirits soared, however, when they came through the gate into the enclosed space. It was larger than she expected, larger even than her mother’s garden. It was also very overgrown, so that one path could not be seen from another. And Jeyhun and Zyba had been courting in decorous fashion for some time.
She bided her time, allowing Val to conduct the tour of the main features of the garden. Despite his constant refrain of, “Of course, it used to be much more beautiful,” enough remained to charm and delight. The former Lady Ashbury had selected for scent and form, as well as for plants whose blooms were open at night, and all the blooms were white, glowing luminescent in the light of the moon, as did much of the foliage.
At last Ruth suggested sitting for a while on a bench near the central fountain. As she expected, her captain and her companion quickly became restless. They had been comparing eastern gardens with the ones they had seen since their arrival in England, and Zyba was certain that a tree they had passed near the entrance to the enclosure was similar to one that bloomed in a garden they had visited in Istanbul. Jeyhun was equally sure she was mistaken.
“Why do you not go and take another look?” Ruth asked.
Jeyhun opened his mouth to argue about leaving her alone with their host, but Zyba took his arm and led him away. Val looked at Ruth with what she was certain, even in her innocence, was desire, but he stayed sitting on the rim of the fountain.
“There is plenty of room beside me,” she said, her cheeks heating at her own boldness.
He leapt up and closed the space between them in two long strides, then sat just far enough away that he touched no part of her, except for the heated gaze that swept from her brow to her shoulders, bared by the fashionable gown, and lower.
She returned the gaze, tracing his face, his shoulders, his torso, with her eyes, and when he leaned towards her, she met him partway. Only their lips touched, brushing once, twice, a third time. He straightened, so that his face drew away a few inches. “Ruth?”
She answered what she hoped he was asking. “Yes.” She leaned towards him again, and he shifted so that they were thigh to thigh. He slid his hands—flesh on one side and carved wood on the other—across her arms and around her back, pulling her chest to chest. This time, when their mouths connected, they clung.
She was vaguely aware of the texture of his jacket under her palms, but most of her attention was on the touch of his lips on hers, of his teeth nipping her lower lip, of his tongue surging inside her mouth when she gasped at that gentle nibble.
She turned her face to give him better access. She had always wondered whether noses interfered with kissing, but apparently her body knew how to prevent that from happening. Someone moaned, and she rather thought it was her. Without her willing it, her body moulded itself to his, but she could not get close enough. She edged up onto his thigh, and it was his turn to moan as her leg slipped down between his and pressed up against something rigid and unyielding.
“Ruth…” he said her name on a groan, then again, this time more sharply, turning his head as her mouth followed his and tried to reconnect. “Ruth. Sweetness. We have to stop.”
Yes. Yes, they did. Heavens! Jeyhun and Zyba were somewhere nearby, perhaps just around the corner, and she was draped over the Earl of Ashbury like a tavern slattern. She jerked away from him, the heat rising in her face. Whatever did he think?
“I beg your pardon,” she murmured.
“I am the one that should apologise, but I find it hard to be sorry. That kiss…!” Val’s voice still sounded strained, as if he were in pain. Her doctor’s mind registered a point from her reading: extreme tumescence could be painful, and when she had been on his lap, she had felt his… If her face got any hotter, it would melt.
She opened her mouth to make some sort of an excuse for her behaviour, or to change the subject to something innocuous. But what came out just added to her embarrassment. “I have never been kissed before. Was it…?” She wasn’t sure what she was asking. Was it exceptional? Was it meaningful to you? Was it something we could do again?Perhaps all of them.
Val, who had dropped his arms when she shifted away, lifted his good hand to cup her cheek and move her face so he could gaze into her eyes. “I have never had a kiss like that in my life. Ruth, you are an exceptional woman, and make me wish with all my heart I was a better man.”
She leaned into his hand. “You are a good man, Valentine Monforte.”
A burst of dialogue came from just beyond the hedge that shielded them. Jeyhun and Zyba were returning.
Val caressed her lips with his thumb before standing, allowing his fingers to trail over her cheek as he dropped his hand and stepped away. He was just in time. Jeyhun and Zyba rounded the turn in the path, and their stolen moment together was over.
To Mend the Broken Hearted
Ruth is a healer, not a social gadfly. She’s glad to leave the foreign world of the ton to run an errand for her sister-in-law. She doesn’t expect to be caught up in a smallpox epidemic, nor to meet the man of her dreams.
Ruth Winderfield is miserable in London’s ballrooms, where her family’s wealth and questions over her birth make her a target for the unscrupulous and a pariah to the high-sticklers. Trained as a healer, she is happiest in a sickroom. When a smallpox epidemic traps her at the remote manor of a reclusive lord, the last thing she expects is to find her heart’s desire.
War and betrayal have wounded Val beyond bearing. The woman who arrives at his retreat with patients who need shelter says she’s a healer. But he is beyond healing. Isn’t he?
Valentine, Earl of Ashbury, was carried home from war three years ago, unconscious, a broken man. He woke to find his family in ruins, his faithless wife and treacherous brother dead, his family’s two girl children exiled to school. He becomes a near recluse while he spends his days trying to restore the estate, or at least prevent further crumbling.
When an impertinent, bossy female turns up with several sick children, including the two girls, he reluctantly gives them shelter. Unable to stand by and watch the suffering, he begins to help with the nursing, while he falls irrevocably for both girls and the lovely Ruth.
The path to happiness passes through danger and scandal
The epidemic over, Ruth and Val part ways, each reluctant to share how they feel without a sign from the other. Ruth returns to her family and the ton. Val begins to build a new life centred on his girls. But danger to Ruth is a clarion call Val cannot ignore. If they can stop the villains determined to destroy them, perhaps the hermit and the healer can mend one another’s hearts.
Buy link: https://books2read.com/b/3GANrd
About Jude Knight
Have you ever wanted something so much you were afraid to even try? That was Jude ten years ago.
For as long as she can remember, she’s wanted to be a novelist. She even started dozens of stories, over the years.
But life kept getting in the way. A seriously ill child who required years of therapy; a rising mortgage that led to a full-time job; six children, her own chronic illness… the writing took a back seat.
As the years passed, the fear grew. If she didn’t put her stories out there in the market, she wouldn’t risk making a fool of herself. She could keep the dream alive if she never put it to the test.
Then her mother died. That great lady had waited her whole life to read a novel of Jude’s, and now it would never happen.
So Jude faced her fear and changed it–told everyone she knew she was writing a novel. Now she’d make a fool of herself for certain if she didn’t finish.
Her first book came out to excellent reviews in December 2014, and the rest is history. Many books, lots of positive reviews, and a few awards later, she plans to keep publishing until she runs out of years.