The moment I crack open a new book, I always rush through the beginning, the budding relationship between the hero and heroine, and anticipate that spontaneous moment when one of them makes their move. The First Kiss. The first turning point in every story.
Every week here on the blog, I’ll be sharing First Kisses from my books and those of other authors.
Christmas Kiss from the Sheriff by Kathryn Albright
Craig’s gaze narrowed. “That’s not what I mean. What happened that you traveled all the way from Boston to California…and I suspect…alone? That’s unusual for a woman. Even more so for a woman who obviously had money. What did your family have to say about it?”
He was figuring out too much. If she wasn’t careful he would eventually add things up and realize she wasn’t who she said she was, but she should tell him something to appease his curiosity. Perhaps then he would leave her past alone.
“Mother died when I was very young. A carriage accident. I don’t remember her. My father raised me on his own…with a few servants.”
“He died recently. It was his heart,” she answered the question that appeared immediately on his handsome face.
Craig frowned. “How long after his death did you leave?”
“A month later.”
“Didn’t give you much time to put his things in order.”
She could hear the question in his voice. “I couldn’t bear the quiet. I was so close to Father. He supported me in everything I wanted to do.”
Craig’s brow raised.
It didn’t take a scholar to recognize the look he gave her. “I was, perhaps, a bit spoiled. We discussed his law cases. He challenged me to think for myself and thought I’d make a good lawyer. I was in my second year of law school at the university when he died.”
They turned from the main road of town and headed down the lane to the boardinghouse.
“They let women in?”
“There were two other women in my class.”
“Why didn’t you stay and finish?”
“When my father died, I had to start afresh—somewhere totally different. I’d been writing for years to Elizabeth. She wrote to me and poured her heart out in her letters as her world was falling apart. She is the sister I always wanted. When my father died, all I could think of was seeing her.” She looked down at the ground. “That’s when I packed a bag, closed up the house and left Boston.”
“No relatives? No one tried to stop you?”
“No.” Thank goodness they were nearing the boardinghouse and the twilight shadows hid her face from his scrutiny. She’d told him the truth…just not all of it.
He stopped before Molly’s fence and whipped the lead strap around the top railing. Then he walked her up to the door. Molly’s parlor lantern spilled light outside and onto the small porch.
“Do you ever think about going back?”
“And leave Clear Springs?” she teased at first, and then grew serious. “I may move somewhere new. But no, I won’t ever go back.” She knew full well what waited for her in Boston—a jail cell.
“Maybe someday you will finish law school.”
That would make her too easy to track down. Women lawyers were few and far between. No…that dream had ended abruptly and was best left in the past. “Someday never comes.” She pasted on a smile to take the sting out of her own words. “Good evening, Craig. Thank you for…everything.”
When she turned to go inside, Craig stepped forward. “Wait.”
“You answered a few questions I had.” He searched her face as though still trying to figure out more. His face was inches from her own. She breathed in the scent of leather and horse that always hovered around him. The brown stubble on his jaw caught her attention. So rough…and yet the ends gleamed gold.
“It’s getting late. Molly will have supper waiting.” She didn’t want him to know more…see more…because if he did, he might see that she was coming to care for him even though she oughtn’t. He was too smart.
With his hand to her waist, he pulled her close.
She stiffened. “Craig? What are you doing?”
He gazed at her, his blue eyes intense. “Be still.”
She knew that look. It thrilled her…and yet she couldn’t let him kiss her. “Craig… No. Remember,” she said desperately fighting the tug inside her that drew her closer to him. “I promised Mr. Tanner? You…should…unhand me.” Her words were a bare whisper and she couldn’t help but stare at his lips. They looked soft…and inviting.
“I plan to.” He lowered his mouth to hers, touching her lips lightly, tentatively with his. His warm breath tickled her face.
Just the lightest butterfly touch and she calmed, suspended somewhere between Boston and Clear Springs, wrong and right, despair and hope.
Inch by inch his fingers walked around to encircle her waist and then, holding her gently secure, he slanted his mouth over hers and deepened the kiss.
Her lips tingled under his, the sensation spreading and rippling through her entire body and into her toes. Her heartbeat quickened. This shouldn’t be happening. She knew this shouldn’t be happening. She even clenched her hands into fists on his chest to push him away, but then found herself stopping just short of doing that and instead, grasping his leather vest, unwilling to let go. Oh, my…
He took his time ending the kiss.
His gaze pinned her in place even though she knew she should take her leave. For an earth-shattering moment as they looked at each other, time seemed to stop.
Then he released her. “Good night, Gemma.”
He strode down Molly’s path, mounted his horse and rode away.
It was then she remembered to breathe.
Christmas Kiss from the Sheriff by Kathryn Albright
A Christmas to remember!
Clear Springs’ new schoolteacher, Gemma Starling, feels as if she’s been given a fresh start. So long as no one discovers her dark secret—she once shot a man in self-defense!
Sheriff Craig Parker has forsworn love, but delightful Miss Starling intrigues him. And when events at the school turn dangerous, Craig won’t let her face it alone. Gemma might just be the one woman he could ever love, but will the secret she’s hiding tear them apart or bring them together by Christmas?
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About Kathryn Albright
Kathryn Albright grew up in San Diego where she sets many of her sweet western historical romances. As a finalist in the distinguished RWA Golden Heart® and a recipient of the HOLT Medallion Award of Merit, her stories celebrate courage and hope with a dash of adventure. She lives with her family in the rural Midwest now where she practices the elusive skill of gardening. So far zucchinis and tomatoes are her only claim to horticultural fame.
You can find Kathryn online at the following links.