Kil rose unsteadily from the chair in front of the cold fireplace. On his first step, he teetered and grabbed at a table for balance. He’d not call himself drunk, but he had consumed enough liquor to be light-headed.
“Sir Kilburn?” The whisper of the feminine interruption disturbed him.
His housekeeper, Missus Bevy had her instructions—no visitors. So why had she let this particular woman into his domain?
“Get out!” he snapped from his darkened corner of the Great Hall.
“Sir Kilburn, I had hoped to talk to you about—” The sweet lilt of each word formed no meaning while disrupting the tenuous hold he had on his emotions.
“You weren’t invited in here,” he said again, uncomfortable with the familiarity of her voice. “Leave.”
“I brought Rachel home.”
Kilburn spun around at the mention of his cousin. Poor Lady Rachel had a passel of problems. Her worst was the dementia, wandering off when no one watched her proved to be a chore in which he had regulated the duty to Missus Bevy. He didn’t have the strength to do more for his cousin than he already had, yet there was an obligatory thread of chivalry that wouldn’t let him turn his back on her either.
“What do you mean you brought Rachel home?” He walked to the doorway and grabbed her upper arms. “Answer me.”
He stared at the face looking up at him. In a turn for the good or the worse, his chest tightened and he found it difficult to breathe the name that always symbolized home to him—Juliette.
Over the years, how many times had he tried to imagine the very contours of her jaw and her nose, or the color of her hair and the texture of her cheeks? Those aspects were not as important as the nature of her personality. She once had the gift of making him happy when she was around.
Juliette remained quiet, gazing at him with an unexplainable expression. He had asked her a question. But what was it? Nothing filtered through his head that erased the mental inventory he took of his heart’s desire. The creamy shade of her skin alone distracted him.
“I was riding my horse as I usually do this time of day and I found Lady Rachel swimming in the pond.” Juliette’s perfect lips appeared warm and appetizing.
“Swimming?” He had always wondered what her heart shaped mouth would feel like against his.
“Yes, fully clothed.” Her breath floated up and stroked his face, a caress that reached the danger of his buried lust.
“Where is she now?” He turned from the sweetness of Juliette’s exhale, and glanced at the closed door.
“Missus Bevy took charge of her.” Juliette answered his unspoken concern. “I would assume she’s in her chamber by now, changing into dry clothes.”
Kilburn returned his attention to Juliette’s appearance. Sheathed in wet brocade, she shivered. Goosebumps dotted her pale skin all the way to the brim of the bodice. The fabric clung to her curves, making her a tempting treat for a man starving for sex. There were two pleasures in life, riding a magnificent dragon and coupling with a lovely woman. He’d lost the love he had of one, but seeing Juliette grown up made his body tense and anxious to have the other.
Behind the shield of fabric, the tips of Juliette’s breasts pointed. Kil licked his lips, savoring the image he formed of them exposed. Dark capped or rosy pink, he had no preference to the color of her nipples—in the past he had no preference to anything about the women he bedded. Once forbidden to him because of her youth, Juliette had matured into a woman he could pursue. Excitement raced through his veins as his desires grew on that realization.
“You’re very nicely packaged.” He slid his hands to her shoulders, trying to recall her as a young girl, and then, thinking better of it.
Her brow wrinkled, maybe a little puzzled, possibly a bit frightened. Neither stopped him from inspecting her. Twisting a wet lock of her golden hair, he tugged the tendril and made her step closer.
She stared with a sympathetic set to her features. The scar on his face wasn’t large, but it was noticeable. He put his hand against the line that skittered down his cheekbone, the mark of battle where a dragon’s talon cut him.
“Afraid of what you see?” He caressed the smooth side of her face, void of anything ugly.
“Let go.” Her words whispered of nervousness.
He slipped one arm around her waist and hoisted her up against him. Staring at her mouth, memories returned from his past. He had nothing intimate of her to remember, yet he still held close to his heart those little things that had an appealing quality he’d never forget. The way she laughed at his jokes, her generous friendship, and especially her endearing gaze of adoration. There wasn’t a single feature about Juliette that hadn’t attracted him in some way.
When he practiced riding the dragon his brother gave him, Juliette used to watch. She had a love of the creatures, just as he did, and a bond formed between them he never understood. His friends—other squires seeking their knighthood, didn’t appreciate Juliette the way he had. They considered her plain, inconsequential, an outlet for their youthful taunts. He acted her champion, defending her honor, but never finding a way to protect her from their cruel words.
“Kil, you’re holding me too tight.” Her comment had a strange tone of surrender.
His sentimental thoughts were a deterrent to what he wanted and he ignored them. Lowering her enough to stand, he placed his hand behind her head. He planted his mouth over hers and sucked at her lips, afraid she’d pull away before he had the chance to enjoy the first kiss they ever shared. As delicious as he imagined, her soft supple lips responded.
His chest burned as if it were on fire when she surprised him with a soft moan of delight. Her mouth continued moving against his, with his in perfect unison, pressing, slurping, and kissing as if passion were the ruling force. The grasp she had of his arms, inched along the top of his shoulders.
Disbelief make him drawback. Surely, she humored him with her compliance—mocking him by not putting up a fight. He looked into her watery eyes and waited for her to laugh at his weakness.
When the handsome dragon fighter knight in the castle next door returns home after a long absence, Lady Juliette Lindhurst pursues her childhood love with the determination to obtain the husband she wants before her father arranges her marriage to someone else.
Sir Kilburn Pembroke’s inconsolable mood changes the moment he sees Juliette again. When she helps him heal from the emotional pains of his past by offering him her unbridled affections, he fears he’s not worthy of this Maiden of Mercy.
To My Readers: In continuation of my fascination with the gallantry of ladies and knights, I’ve written the story of dragon fighter and the lady that rescues him from depression. Kilburn suffers from a harrowing ordeal of saving his kidnapped cousin. When he returns home to live in seclusion, Juliette, the childhood friend that has always loved him refuses to give up on pulling Kilburn out of his surly mood. This is a story that shows the power of a woman’s faith, and I hope once in everyone’s life, you get to experience the true depths of love.