Stalwart Jonas Bacon will venture to the colonies again. The former man of business (in Meet the Earl at Midnight) must resolve one problem before he severs ties with England forever. His past is behind him…until he tangles with an unexpected Christmas Eve guest who could be the key to his future.
To Steal a Kiss at Midnight
(a 2015 novella in the Midnight Meetings series)
Show me a man caught with his smalls down and I’ll show you a fool.
Jonas stood bare arse naked before a crackling fire, his mouth quirking at the salty wisdom. Water dripped down his skin, but there was no time for a proper dry off from his bath. The room’s curtains stirred though the window was closed.
He slipped on ruby red breeches— minus his smalls. All his clothes sat in a battered sea chest next to a pair of boots peeking out beneath the curtains.
Boots that weren’t his.
Alertness skimmed the small hairs on his neck. With a casual hand, he reached for his pistol’s familiar walnut grip. Under his lashes he studied the boots, boots on the small side. A lad?
Who would want to ambush him here?
His coming home to Plumtree should be of no consequence…not after ten years gone.
The village and his grandfather’s stone house hadn’t changed much. Humble, quaint, and small. Too small. The cramped walls of his bed chamber loomed, the wooden panels confining him. He didn’t belong here. Not anymore. The sooner he took care of matters with his grandfather, the Captain, the sooner he’d be on his way.
The first order of business was dispatching his unskilled housebreaker.
“I know you’re hiding behind the curtains.” He padded bare foot across the plank floor, air nipping his damp chest. “Show yourself.”
The boots didn’t move. Roars of revelry drifted up from downstairs. Christmas Eve celebrations must be going well. The house burst with fresh pine boughs and spiked cider, the green and spicy scents floating everywhere. This was not a night for ill will.
Frowning, he aimed the business end of his pistol at the curtain. “I’ll count to three.”
The black boots stayed put. He wouldn’t shoot the boy…maybe scare some sense into him. Housebreaking was a serious crime with grisly consequences.
Laughter exploded through the floorboards. Mr. Goodspeak, fine soul that he was, brayed the loudest. Fiddle music played a Yuletide carol in double time, accompanied by stomping and clapping. The Captain must’ve shared his best whiskey, the kind that warmed a man nearly as good as a woman.
He could use a dram right about now.
“One…” His voice boomed.
The curtain bulged, pointing back at him. His shoulders tensed. The lad had a pistol?
Yards of navy wool billowed. Jonas rammed his late night visitor against the wall.
Umph. The lad grunted and something shiny clattered on the floor. A blunderbuss. Jonas kicked the weapon backward and it slammed into his tub. The split second move cost him. White hot pain slammed his toes. He looked down. One of those boots was on top of his foot.
“Enough,” he growled, wrestling the housebreaker.
Cloth ripped overhead. The curtain plunged, covering the fractious lad. Whoops and hollers sang through the house. The Captain and his cronies had to be deep in their cups not to hear this scuffle.
His foot throbbing, Jonas hefted the miscreant in both arms and hop stepped away from the window, the youth kicking and squealing.
He squinted at the cloth-covered face. A gaping mouth pressed the dark wool like a caught fish. The slippery lad seized the moment and fought hard for release. Jonas felt his pistol slip from his hand, and fine Madrid steel hammered his already aching toes.
He stumbled onto the bed, air hissing through clenched teeth. This is what happens to the unready man: his bed shook from the wrong kind of tumble.
“Stop!” he bellowed and planted his frame atop the wriggling body.
Uhhh. Air whooshed from behind the curtain.
He clamped the lad’s arms down, his vision snaring on two mounds shoved into his face. The corner of his mouth twitched as facts registered: he was nose to chest with breasts…a fine pair as breasts go swathed in curtains.
“Please.” A woman’s voice wheezed above his head. “Get off me.”
Between his bulk squishing her and the tangled shroud, she couldn’t be breathing right. He rolled off, keeping his leg on her thighs.
“Ohhh, thank you,” she gasped, clawing the fabric.
“Let me uncover you.”
“So you can shoot me?”
“No.” He grabbed her frantic hands. “So you can breathe easy.”
Downstairs land-locked sailors howled a ditty unfit for tender ears. In his modest room, he sensed the tides change. Waves of firelight danced orange and gold across tangled white bed sheets. The bed stopped creaking. The woman’s body rested against his, warm and quiet. Her huffs of breath slowed.
“I’m at your mercy.”
His grin came as much from her brave show of trust as the off-key chorus in the drawing room.
“Stay calm,” he murmured and caught a whiff of vinegar.
There was no time to puzzle over the tangy smell. The mystery of an unexpected woman in his room needed answering first. He sought a small hole near her head and yanked hard. Threads snapped, rending the curtain in two. A pretty mouth sucked fresh air and exhaled a blissful sigh.
She smiled at him, a dimple showing itself on the left side of her mouth. “That was awful. Thank you for freeing me.”
The comely, brown-eyed housebreaker lay flat on her back, dressed as a lad in homespun breeches and black hip boots. The green coat she wore flopped open. Her messy spill of long red hair and exquisite breasts ruined the boyish disguise.
Something about her struck a chord, but his gaze snagged on two sweet circles pressing her linen shirt. She wore no corset, no chemise. He’d traveled many places, seen his share of breasts, but never had he been lulled by them. The nymph’s chest rose and fell with the cadence of her breath, the sight striking him speechless.
She snapped her coat shut. “Jonas Bacon Braithwaite,” she said, smirking on the middle moniker. “Welcome home.”
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