To Steal A Kiss At Midnight
(part of the Midnight Meetings series)
Sin black hair with angelic blue eyes shouldn’t be an earthly possibility. Yet, Jonas wore the combination as though his looks didn’t matter. Plumtree’s rebel son was never quick to charm the ladies; his brother Jacob owned that skill.
But his small gold earring made Olivia bolt upright.
“What’s this?” She tapped the hoop hanging from his ear. “Were you a pirate?”
His head jerked back from the touch, his brows slamming in a terse line. The way Jonas examined her spoke volumes. Of course, she was a girlish fourteen when he last saw her, and he the near full grown man of twenty.
She laughed and braced a hand on his bed. “You don’t remember me.”
The notion pricked her pride. Her chin tipped higher and she smiled, waiting. Jonas searched her face and form, a warm tingle following his blue-eyed study.
“Livy? Livy Halsey?”
“In the flesh.” She eyed his thick chest where black curls sprung. “And you might want to cover some of yours.”
He crossed arms knotted with ample muscles earned by years of hardship in far flung places if the tales she’d heard were true.
“Not yet. Explain yourself. What are you doing in my room at near midnight?” He glanced at the mullioned window. “And how’d you get in here?”
Embers sparked inside her, tickling her skin. Her body wanted to stay put, but her brain cried for distance. Strong and quiet, Jonas was always the calm in any storm, even when he stirred up trouble.
“I came to get something.”
She slid off the mattress, her bottom brushing his bed sheets. The intimate sound teased her. Her hands gripped the ends of her coat, needing something to hold. Their tussle had warmed her to the core…so did the view of him bathing earlier.
He scowled at her. “Don’t play coy. Last I saw you your braids were flying as you galloped away.”
“And last I saw you your lips were stuck to my sister.”
He chuckled and leaned against the bed post. “How is Elspeth?”
Her fingernails dug into her coat. “She’s well. Married and widowed two years ago. She’s here for Twelfth Night festivities.”
His face softened. “Sorry to hear about her loss, but you need to explain yourself.”
Her lips clamped in a firm line. Barks of laughter rang through the house from below stairs. The song was done and so was she. Her feet shifted ready to take her home. She looked to the blunderbuss, firelight gleaming off the brass muzzle. Jonas must’ve read her intent. He was off the bed nimble as a cat.
“Don’t be stubborn, Liv. What about your mother and father? They must be worried.”
“They’re safely abed,” she assured, and tipped her head at the window. “That’s how I got in. I climbed the tree and that’s how I’ll leave.”
“A grown woman climbing trees.”
“Yes,” she said, looking him square in the face. “And I still swim the River Wye.”
Jonas meant to chide her, but his soothing voice made her want to stay. She yearned to curl up in front of the fire and listen to him spin tales of his travels. Being with Jonas had been the best and easiest part of growing up. But, her reckless days with the Braithwaite brothers were a thing of the past.
She had her work and her family’s circumstances to consider. Her course was set. Dallying with a raven-haired adventurer-cum-colonial wasn’t her path. She took quick steps across the room before the night turned into a worse disaster. The blunderbuss would have to be rescued later.
A brawny arm blocked the window.
“I can’t let you do that. You should leave by the front door. It’s safer.”
“I can’t go out the front door,” she cried.
“What? You’re worried about what’s proper?” he asked, flipping open his sea chest. “And you haven’t told me why you’re here. Settling some score with the Captain?”
She held her breath when he searched the chest, but his hurried hands grabbed clothes and shut the lid. This wasn’t about the Captain. This was about him. The stolen piece was tucked safely in the back waistband of her breeches. The truth of what she’d done left unwelcome thickness in her throat. She had to look away.
“I’ll…I’ll tell you before Twelfth Night ends. I promise.” Her voice was strained. “Let me leave quietly. Consider it a favor to an old friend.”
When she faced him again, his deep blue stare fixed on her, penetrating as a vivid summer sky. Oh, he saw right through her and knew she spoke a falsehood. Even if he didn’t know exactly what she’d done, he was going to let her get away with it.
Jonas nodded slowly, his mouth turning in a half-smile. “It’ll cost you.”
“You can count on me to pay my debts.”
She swallowed the lump in her throat. The surprise was how much she still cared for him, the unexplainable depth beyond friendship and girlish infatuation; their lives entwined from years of scrapes and merriment. Time hadn’t diminished that bond.
Jonas pulled a snowy cambric shirt over his head seemingly oblivious to the storm he caused in her. She stood, mesmerized by the oddity of watching him dress. Catching him at his bath was strange enough. An awful twinge sunk in her stomach: perhaps he’s grown comfortable dressing in the company of a woman.
“You’ll want to take that home.” Jonas tipped his head at the blunderbuss, his fingers flying over a row of pearled buttons on his black silk waistcoat.
She retrieved the weapon and held it up by the barrel. “I brought it in case I ran into one of the Captain’s friends…a woman’s precaution if you will.” Her voice quieted. “I’m sorry I pointed it at you and for stomping your foot. That was an accident.”
He slipped on a well-traveled boot and graced her with a beautiful smile. “You’re forgiven.”
Between his smile and the dimly lit room, her legs refused to move; someone could’ve tied them together.
“My friendship is true as it ever was, Livy. If you need something…”
His words trailed off, hanging between them as good as a sailor’s life-line. She could grab his offer and tell him everything. For what purpose? Plumtree gossip claimed he’d be gone when Twelfth Night ended. His unpacked sea chest confirmed the news.
She willed herself to his window and unlatched the narrow panel. Christmas Eve bathed her face with cold air.
“Thank you for that and for understanding about this.” She waggled her fingers at the ancient oak tree.
“We’ve shared worse scrapes. Why not share one more?” He put on a red velvet coat, watching her with pensive eyes.
His finery looked new and out of place, but his steadfast character was unchanged. She was certain he extended another invitation to spill her troubles. A man chasing down his next adventure couldn’t help her; she needed someone to stay.
Her leg hooked over the window ledge, and she deflected him with a quip. “Dashing attire for a pirate.”
“Wait,” he said, heading for the door. “Let me get outside first. I’ll to see you safely off.”
He disappeared from the room. Male voices overlapped with hoots of laughter through the open door. She tucked the blunderbuss into the front of her breeches and swung her other leg out the window. The climb down the tree was easy from the second story window.
Her feet touched the ground not far from the drawing room’s back window where light glowed on the snow. Fiddle music played as Jonas jogged around the corner of the house. His breath puffed tiny clouds in the night air. He made an imposing silhouette, his frock coat covering colossal shoulders.
“You were supposed to wait.”
“Why?” She shook out her cloak that she’d left on a shrub.
“So I could catch you if you fell,” he drawled. His voice caressed each word, half amused and a touch sensual.
Her hands stilled. Eyes the shade of lazurite glinted with messages she shouldn’t be receiving.
“I’d better leave.” She whipped on her cloak and spun around to her horse tethered by the tree.
Behind her, boots crunched snow and pebbles. A light snow had fallen on Plumtree, sprinkling the world clean and white. She reached for the stirrup when a firm hand touched her shoulder. Jonas made a daunting wall behind her, his body heat welcome but dangerous.
“Won’t you let me help you?” He murmured into her ear.
Her nerves roused hot and ready, sending waves of gooseflesh across her back and bottom. The sensation swept over private places between her legs.
She shut her eyes a split-second, willing composure. “You offer more than helping me mount my horse.”
Jonas turned her around, his large hands grasping her shoulders. Moonlight limned ink black hair not long enough to be tied in a queue. He had to have shaved his head earlier this year and was growing his hair again.
The gold earring twinkled. Yes, they both had their secrets.
He pulled her closer, his frock coat brushing the front of her. “Tonight I saw the same look in your eyes after you nearly drowned.”
“When you saved me,” she whispered.
Inside the house, the fiddle’s high-pitched notes thinned. Taut silence curled around them, peaceful and dear. The Captain and his friends rumbled a new song without the fiddle, their deep voices blending for the first time.
“God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay…”
Jonas cracked a smile. “At least they don’t sound like dying cats.”
Their bodies shook with gentle laughter. She inched closer to him or he inched closer to her. She couldn’t be sure. When she looked into his eyes, Jonas took her breath away.
Infinite stillness lit the depths, an unexpected surprise in a man of adventure.
Her lips parted intent on saying she needed to leave. But, she didn’t move. Jonas slipped his hands into her unbound hair. Her breath hitched, pleasure sprinkling her nape; she wanted him…his touch, his friendship and closeness, whatever he could give.
Dark lashes drooped over Jonas’s glorious blue eyes. His carnal lips rubbed hers, softly coaxing her mouth. Gentle heat melted her, sending confounding messages to her limbs. She needed to leave but wanted to stay.
Jonas tasted of sharp cider and something else she couldn’t name. He teased her, his tongue skimming her lower lip before slipping into her mouth. She gripped his coat. Her body swayed into him. Her mouth opened to him, her tongue touching him back. Little tremors shook her from head to foot.
Yearning deepened with the long kiss. Wet heat shot anew between her legs, but the strongest ache wasn’t there. It banged inside her heart.
Kissing Jonas, she tasted life as it was meant to be. Vibrant and complete. His mouth on hers was an invitation.
And she was ready to say yes.
Did you miss December’s post with Part 1? Here’s a link to the beginning: Part 1
Don’t miss out on the Midnight Meetings series!
(Click the cover to learn more)