Welcome to my blog and another First Kiss Friday. Today’s guest is my dear friend Caroline Warfield who has an excerpt from her book Wounded Hearts. Take it away, Caroline!
There are three stories in Wounded Hearts, and three first kisses. The very first one in the book is this one. Doug Marsh may have come home from the Napoleonic wars with a permanent limp that forces him to rely on a cane, but that doesn’t stop him from protecting the woman he loves when her vile supervisor attempts to take advantage. This scene takes place in a back room during a ball at the Bath Assembly Rooms.
“You’ll pay for this, you whore!” Fowler roared. “You owe me more than a cuddle and a kiss for that one.” He lunged at Esther, only to be brought up short by a heavy wooden cane shoved crosswise into his middle like a battle staff.
“I believe it is you who owes the lady,” Doug spat through gritted teeth, pushing the little man unrelentingly back to the wall. If Fowler thought Doug’s limp meant he was weak, he knew better now. Doug’s grip on his throat proved it; seventeen years of war had taught him innumerable efficient ways to kill a man. “Start with an apology.”
“Doug, no! Don’t kill him.” Esther’s voice cut through Doug’s savage instincts. He slammed Fowler’s head against the wall and stepped back. Into Esther’s arms.
“Don’t,” she sobbed into his shoulder. “Don’t get into trouble for me.”
“You best listen to her, Marsh. You’ll get no further contract from me. I can ruin you.” Fowler rose unsteadily to his feet, “And that whore and the earl’s by-blow can starve in the street.”
Doug’s fist snapped Fowler’s head back before he could blink. “That is for the lady,” he said. He followed it with a swift cut to the man’s midsection that doubled him over. “And that is for the earl, as honorable a gentleman as you could hope to meet.”
Fowler clutched his midsection and glared. He opened his mouth to speak, and Doug’s entire body stiffened. He felt Esther’s hand, gentle on his arm. “Easy, Doug. Mr. Fowler is going to leave now, and we will never speak of this. He will tell no one what happened here.” Fowler managed a sneer, and Esther poked her index finger into his chest. “He will never speak of this because, if he does, the Earl of Chadbourn will have words for the Master of Ceremonies and the Assembly Room committee about the slur to his good name.” Fowler’s eyes widened.
Doug stood rigid at her side, hands fisted, eyes fixed on Fowler, wanting to pound the miscreant to the floor but helpless in the face of this courageous woman’s stand.
Her next words improved his disposition. “Besides, if he were to try to touch me again, he will face the wrath of Sergeant Douglas Marsh and come away a battered man—if he comes away at all,” she said with bloodthirsty glee.
“He will face it if he so much as opens his pathetic mouth to defame the lady’s name,” Doug ground out, his eyes never leaving Fowler, who could do no more than fire hateful looks in their direction as he waddled toward the door.
“Smile, Mr. Fowler. You don’t want to alarm the guests,” Esther called after him.
She clasped a hand over her mouth to stifle a laugh; the hand shook violently.
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.
About the Book: Wounded Hearts
Wounded bodies mend; wounded hearts take longer.
Three warriors return from the Napoleonic wars with damaged bodies, ugly memories, and regrets to futures they are ill prepared to face. But love can heal the most damaged heart bringing with it hope for better days
Candles in the Dark—Douglas Marsh came home to an unexpected inheritance, a factory he has no idea how to run. With many dependent on him, he does his best in spite of pain from his battered legs. He has no time for self-pity especially after he meets a woman on the streets with far bigger problems.
Lord Ethan’s Courage—Lord Ethan Alcott left his right hand and his soul in Spain. He lives on the streets during the worst winter in decades, wishing for death, ashamed to go home. But a stubborn lady and her equally determined brother won’t give up on him.
The Tender Flood—Zach Newell manages well enough with a prosthetic leg. He even drives a carriage for his uncle, but he’s desperately lonely, missing the comradery of the army. In the midst of the storm of the century he meets the woman who makes his heart sing, one too far above his touch. If he won’t approach, she will have to.
Wounded Hearts launches November 8. It will be available for sale or on Kindle Unlimited after that. The sale price will remain 99 cents through November in honor of Veteran’s Day and veterans everywhere.
About the Author:
Traveler, poet, librarian, technology manager—award-winning and Amazon best-selling author Caroline Warfield has been many things (even a nun), but above all, she is a romantic. Having retired to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania, she reckons she is on at least her third act, writing family-centered historical romance set mainly in the Regency and Victorian eras.
Caroline believes firmly that love is worth the risk; she sits in an office surrounded by windows and nudges readers to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.
In addition to her weekly blog, But First Coffee, she hosts guests on her Highlighting Historical Romance series, and contributes to the SMPAuthors Blog, and (on a lighter note) The Teatime Tattler, a blog in the shape of a fictional nineteenth-century gossip rag.
For more about all of Caroline’s books, look here: https://www.carolinewarfield.com/bookshelf/