Welcome to another First Kiss Friday. Please welcome my guest Cerise DeLand who has an excerpt from If You Were The Only Girl In the World. Happy reading and enjoy, my lovelies!
Intro from the author:
In the spring 1916, American Katrina Schubert arrives in London awaiting confirmation that she can cross the Channel in a packet. She’s a young doctor, in Europe on her own to help the war effort. Because she has learned the American Army will not enlist female physicians if or when the country goes to war, she decides to take her inheritance and serve at her own expense.
What she does not realize is that since the last time she was here, Europeans have drastically changed. Paris a city under seige. There is no place to hide from the war, no place to run, no place for gaiety. As she tries to secure passage across to France, one night she is attacked in the London streets. But she is saved by a young British colonel whom she remembers all too well saved her once before.
When she finally gets approval to cross the Channel, Nate Langston, the Earl of Crabury, takes her to Dover along with his good friend and distant cousin, Dylan Hanniford. Here we find them in Dover, saying goodbye.
She took Nate’s hand to aid her out of the taxi that he and Dylan had engaged at the train station. She stared at the small hotel was quaint with its ivy covered stone and young white rosebuds climbing the walls. But the building was sad as the weather. Tilting to one side, the three-story building seemed to have held itself up along the old and winding street for a century or more. Its sign swinging from an iron hook banged against the stones in a mournful cry.
She refused to glance at the port once more. The first sight of armored ships, their guns pointed toward the water and the French coast, the grey drizzle, the bone-deep chill combined to make her teeth ache.
Nate and Dylan hailed the porter, an elderly fellow who should not be doing such heavy lifting. But young men were a rarity. Even Dylan in civilian dress as he was, was scrutinized by those in the train station. Men in uniform had a special disdain for him. One glance to see he was in the company of a British Colonel assuaged a bit of their irritation as well as inspired their curiosity. They found it even more strange that a young woman was accompanied by two men and gave Katrina a once-over that was less than kind.
The three hurried inside the hotel where a fire burned in warm and crackling welcome.
Dylan signed in at the desk with the proprietress. A lady of rectitude as rigid as her posture, she was curious about the woman who was next.
“I have a reservation. My name is Dr. Katrina Schubert.” The woman softened at the word ‘doctor’ but resumed her stiff demeanor at the sound of Katrina’s last name. As Katrina handed the lady her passport, she went on, “I go on to Paris to work there.”
Nate stood to one side of her. Dylan the other. Both of them gave the lady twinkly little smiles as she checked her ledger and sought the keys from her pegboard behind her.
“Room twenty-two, Madam Schubert.”
“Of course.” The lady glared at her, then gave Dylan his key.
Angry at the slight, Katrina grasped the large iron key and debated if she should reprimand the woman. She was so very tired of others who judged her for her profession. Or her male company. Or her lack of female company.
Nate’s fingers squeezed her waist.
Dylan gave her a knowing lift of his brows and in hearing of the proprietress said, “I’ll see you down here for dinner, Katrina. Seven o’clock, sound fine?”
“Absolutely.” She toyed with the key. Here, ready to leave England, she felt her blood pressure kick up. She spun toward Nate as he picked up her two suitcases. “I’ll take those.”
“I’ll carry them up for you.”
She shook her head and widened her eyes in warning. “You’ve done so much for me.”
He tipped his head. “And you for me.”
She gave a laugh. “How can that be?”
“I need to talk to you. Alone. Let me take these up. Give me you key, eh? Stay here. She will think what she will. Then we’ll get Dylan and we three will go find a tea room or a pub. Some place to have a decent meal.”
“No.” Tears threatened and she hated that she’d dissolve in front of him. “Please don’t argue. I need to be alone.”
“Do you?” he asked, regret alive in his tone. “I don’t understand—“
“I need to summon my inner warrior, Colonel. You have coddled me these past few days and I must put on my armor, sir, for the crossing.” Embarrassed, she shook her head, pushing aside her loss of him. “Sorry. I’m being a ninny.”
“I’d say you’re been damn brave.”
She bucked up at that and admired his handsome face for one of the last times. “Oh, Nate. I’m realizing what a wild decision I made to come here. That’s not brave. That’s pitiful.”
He pulled her to the side of the room and into an alcove secluded from the lobby. She had presence of mind to note two chairs and a settee and rejoiced at the privacy at this last vital moment with him. He put her suitcases to the floor and reached for her. Once more, as the night he had saved her from those thugs, he was her comfort as he drew her gently into his arms.
She went, falling against his shoulder like a rag doll, her arms clutching him around his waist, the smooth wool of his uniform on her cheek, a comfort to her tattered mind.
He ran his hands down her spine and she sighed into him.
“I’ve wanted to hold you for days,” he said on a little laugh.
“I wanted to be held,” she admitted to his shoulder and hugged him like she’d never let him go. “I cannot tell you what a help you’ve been to me.”
He pulled away, and smiled wickedly as he lifted her chin. He had tears in his eyes and he was not hiding them. “I remember the first night we met. You were brave then.”
She gave laugh. “Oh, that’s not true. I was angry.”
“You had good cause.”
“I did,” she acknowledged.
Katrina pulled back in his arms to examine him. The subject she thought of for years, the dumbest she had not broached with him, suddenly seemed the most important one she had to clarify before they parted. “What happened to her?”
“Who?” he sounded lost as if he had no idea who she spoke of.
“Did she die? Your fiancé. Your wife. You told me you have a son but no wife.”
He brushed away a tear from her cheek. “I didn’t marry old Whats-her-name. After you showed me what I should be doing that night, I called off the engagement. I didn’t marry her. I married another girl. From my village. A sweet young woman who died giving birth to our son.”
“Oh, Nate.” She cupped his jaw. “I am so sorry.”
“He’s a fine boy.”
“And I wouldn’t have him if it were not for you.”
She demurred. “Oh, I doubt—“
“No. You see that night you saved me from what would have been disaster.”
That he would credit her struck her as magnanimous and much maligned. “I think you knew what it was before you spoke to a stranger on the veranda.”
“Did I? A few words. A casual observation. Two strangers on a veranda speaking the truth. My marriage would never have worked.”
He grinned. “I do believe we saved each other.”
“Put like that?” She nodded and grinned. “We did.”
He brushed his thumb over the curve of her bottom lip. “I’ll come to Paris. I don’t know when or how. But I will. I’ll write but the mail across the Channel is irregular. But I will come to call. Will you have me?”
She hugged him close, her heart breaking that she’d never see him again, that he’d die or forget her. “Have you? Of course. Nate, when you do, I might never let you go.”
“Kate,” he said as if he couldn’t believe she’d want him. And then he bent to put his firm hot lips to hers. His kiss was fast, hard, every claim she’d ever imagined from a man who truly could not live without her. He crushed her near again and his next kiss was a brand of heat and chaos. He traced her lips with his tongue and she opened, wanting his possession. He skimmed her cheek. “Don’t forget me.”
She caught his chin. “I never did. I thought so often about you. A gallant man. I’d known only a few. I wondered too in the still of many nights when I was weary or I had lost someone, if you remembered me. Or how you’d be if you were mine.”
He sucked in a breath. “Oh, Kate, we’ll discover that together, shall we, eh? Soon. I’ll come to Paris.” His gaze ran over her in question and in a look that was our possession. Then he kissed her once more, a claim of lips and tongue and teeth.
He stepped back and she gasped in objection.
So full of his endearments, she reached up and brushed his mussed hair into better form. “Paris, yes. A promise.”
He lifted her hand and kissed the back. “Doctor, you are brave. Go. Save many. Be safe. Au revoir, darling.”
Slowly he turned away, straightening his coat, and with a heave of his shoulders, he strode away.
If You Were The Only Girl In The World
By Cerise DeLand
One starlit night, he saved her from tragedy and she saved him from disaster.
Years later, on a moonless night, he rescues her again—and they discover a love affair they cannot resist.
Now during the nightmare of war, each must decide if they’ll abandon all they worked for to claim the only person in the world they could love.
Katrina Schubert rejected what her father’s millions could buy—a title, a castle, a man who’d marry her for her money. Instead, she wanted to use her intellect and become a doctor.
Nathaniel, the Earl of Carbury, didn’t want what his family insisted he needed—a good woman who proved to him how beneficial a loving partner could be.
But one starless night in war-torn London, Nate saves Katrina from tragedy, the same way years before, she’d saved him from disaster. What began as friendship turns to a love affair they can’t resist.
Dare they risk their hearts to take all the riches enchantment can bring them?
Or will they reject the possibility that each remains alone, remembering the only other person they could adore?
About the Author:
Cerise DeLand loves to write about dashing heroes and the sassy women they adore.
But I bet you knew that!
Did you know that she’s known for her poetic elegance and accuracy of detail?
That she’s an award-winning author of more than 40 novels and was first published in 1991 by Kensington, then Pocket Books, later by St. Martin’s Press and independent presses?
That her books have been monthly selections of the Doubleday Book Club and the Mystery Guild? Right. And she’s won awards. Lots of them. Need details? Write to her. She’ll send you the list!
To research, she’s dived into the oldest texts and dustiest library shelves. She also travels abroad taking good walking shoes, trusty notebooks and pens, plus camera! She visits chateaux and country homes she loves to people with her own imaginary characters.
And at home every day? She cooks. Never dusts. (That can be a problem.) She goes swimming or pumps iron once a week and tries (desperately) to grow vegetables in her arid backyard in south Texas!