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A SOLSTICE KISS

Updated: Jan 20



Happy December! For this blog post I decided I wanted to write Roland and Eden’s kiss at the midwinter feast. This was something that I touched on at the end of ‘His Forsaken Bride’ as Fenella witnessed the events before it and then the aftermath, though she never actually saw the kiss itself. In ‘An Ill-Made Match” both Roland and Eden reflect on the kiss, but I never gave a first-person account of it. I thought for my Christmas post, I would rectify that! I hope you enjoy. With warmest wishes for the season. Alice x

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The Solstice Eve Feast, The Winter Palace, Aphrany

“The King’s Champion,” announced the Lord of Misrule, “Must kiss the girl who finds the silver token.”

Roland lowered his tankard as his friend Ned Bevan smote him between the shoulder blades, and the hall erupted into laughter and excited chatter. He inclined his head to show his willingness to carry out the King’s fool’s pronouncement. “By all means,” he said, wiping the foam from his upper lip.

“Pray to the gods she’s pretty,” rumbled James Attley from the other side of the table and Roland shrugged. Did it really matter if she wasn’t? A brief peck would suffice if some old dowager unearthed it, or even a kiss on the hand if she was truly hideous. Meanwhile, a commotion had started at the other end of the table.

“You lucky bastard,” swore Attley. “Fair Lenora’s found it!”

“Nay, wait a moment,” cautioned Bev. “She’s saying it’s her cousin that found it.“ He chuckled. “The Lady Eden wasn’t going to admit to the fact, either.”

“Bad luck,” commiserated Attley, but for some reason, Roland found his interest perking up. Eden Montmayne? He glanced up the table and saw the briefest glimpse of wide-eyed panic on her face. Then, just as quickly, she had herself back under control, and gave a tight smile of acknowledgement. Roland almost laughed at her obvious displeasure. How she would hate giving him a taste of those lips, he thought with satisfaction, for he knew at once, that he had no intention of kissing her hand. The opportunity was too good a chance to squander.

He smirked, looking around in acknowledgement of the calls of his friends, the encouragement of the crowd. “I claim my prize,” he said, flinging a look of challenge Eden’s way. Now what would my Lady Propriety make of that? Not pausing to take stock, he swung his leg over the bench and swaggered his way up the length of the hall towards where she was seated. As he drew nearer, he watched her turn her proud head and gaze down the length of the hall with an appearance of outward calm that impressed the hell out of him. She was a haughty piece, but he knew he had not imagined her discomfort. She was so prim and proper, chances were that this was her first kiss. For some reason, that thought made the breath catch in his throat.

He watched as she flung back her shoulders, and pushed back her seat, standing on her two feet to meet him, and his pulse raced in anticipation. By rights, Eden Montmayne should taste as dry and dusty as the book pages she poured over, but somehow, he knew she would not. He blocked out the raucous clamour and the bawdy jests, as he stepped right into her space and stood a moment looking down at her slender figure, dressed all in black modest velvet, with scant ornamentation. She blinked, then appeared to steel herself, tipping back her head to look up at him. Their eyes met, and he realised his own mouth was suddenly dry, as if he were parched for her. Instead of grabbing her waist as he had intended, or swinging her around in boisterous play, acting up to the crowd, he kept his hands respectfully to himself. Her eyes widened a moment, as she seemed to realize she wasn’t about to be manhandled, and he saw surprised relief flit across her

delicate features. No doubt, it was gratitude that prompted her to aid his progress, by rising up onto her toes to receive his kiss. What it didn’t explain, was the jolt of fierce pleasure that shot through him at her participation. Stunned, he lowered his face, his mind turning blank, as he forgot exactly why he was in this position, where Eden Montmayne found his overtures permissible, and instead revelled in the fact she did. Like some ardent, respectful lover, (a role he had never played), he found himself touching his lips to hers in the softest of feather-light kisses, his eyes drifting shut to savour the sensation. In the darkness and the silence where all he could hear was the beating of his own heart, he sensed rather than felt the answering tremor that ran through her at their achingly tender kiss. My gods, what was happening to him? He didn’t want to draw back. He wanted to stay like this, suspended in time, feeling her breath mingled with his, her lips pressed against his with the same sweet pressure his own were exerting. His chest throbbed. She was kissing him back. Eden Montmayne was kissing him. The thought was equally as shocking as it was pleasurable. He drew back with a startled exclamation. The spell was broken. How long had he hovered above her like that? Not long enough, though it might have been an eternity for all he knew. He had forgotten himself and all thought of time or their surroundings. He felt hot colour slash across his cheekbones, as he watched the answering blush spread across her face. He was breathing as if he’d run a race. It took an effort, but he managed to drag his gaze from hers, to scan the company at large. Had they witnessed his undoing? No, they were drumming their heels against the flagstones and hooting in approval. He could not have made such a bloody fool of himself as he had imagined, he thought awkwardly falling onto his back foot and clearing his throat. He couldn’t even speak, let alone leer or throw a jest her way. On unsteady feet he turned, and lurched back to his seat like some bashful bumpkin who had just kissed his promised sweetheart. His ears burned. Gods! What had the wench done to him? He suffered the slaps on his back and the tankard pressed into his hand as he sank back onto his bench, feeling winded as if by a fall.

He did not dare glance back in her direction until everyone was distracted by the fool’s next jest. To his irritation, Eden had not one hair out of place. How could she look so calm when the blood was still pounding in his ears? He wanted to touch his lips and re-live the feeling of hers, but ruthlessly suppressed the impulse. What the hells? He took large draught of ale. Doubtless it was just some excess of solstice merriment that made his head reel, he told himself uneasily. He had not even tasted her, and even as he bitterly regretted the fact, he realised he was grateful for it all the same. For if just pressing his lips to hers in the most innocent of kisses could result in this intense longing, what havoc would it have unleashed on his peace of mind if his tongue had actually tangled with hers. He gave a small groan. Hells, he must not even think of it!

“Ah, the roast meats!” announced Bev, noticing the servers trooping in with laden platters. “Now we feast!”

But it wasn’t food Roland hungered for. That kiss had awakened the strangest longings deep down inside of himself. Unable to stop himself, he stole another glance at Eden. He had the most terrible foreboding that for him, nothing was ever going to be the same again.

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