Tanley's boring life on Saint Michael's Mount gets a lot more complicated when a man is washed up on the beach. With her father dead, the neighbor smuggling, and a knife wound in the man's shoulder she's all alone with a whole lot of trouble.
At least she's not stuck getting rid of a body when he wakes up at long last, but delivering papers for the government to help pay the debt after the war with Napoleon makes the stakes higher than just a little smuggling. Alone with James though temptation is hard to resist, if only getting caught didn't bring up a whole new set of problems.
All conventions were gone anyway, James took her hand as she passed by. He only had to pull gently and she fell in his lap. For the first time since he was in her house, she couldn’t ignore her heart beating out of her chest. “I’ve never kissed a man.” She whispered just before his lips touched hers.
It didn’t stop him. “That is unthinkable, I’ll have to make it a proper thank you then. A first should always be memorable.” He might have meant it as a quick peck before, but the thumb that caressed her cheek was gentle. Slow. As bright blue, grey, and green eyes gazed into hers, her breathing came short when his thumb touched her mouth. When lips touched hers though the loneliness filled her. Overwhelmed her. As his hand twined in her loose hair trapping her there though, the loneliness left. Heat built with every touch. Hiding on an island with no one to care for was the last thing she could imagine. There was no loneliness left as his tongue swept in her mouth and took her breath away. She rest her forehead on his breathing deeply when he pulled back only an inch.
“Thank you for everything.” He whispered. “Adam would be alone if not for you.”
“My son. He’s 8.”
“You shouldn’t kiss me.”
“Why are you going to trap me now for a thank you?”
“Why would you say such a thing? It’s my reputation to ruin if you’re ever found here.” Tanley sat back and stared at him. He didn’t say that lightly. “James. . .” His head flew up at the sound of his given name. “You shouldn’t show me what I’m missing stuck here on this rock, or I shall despair of happiness ever again.” She stood unable to believe she was saying it. “A first kiss like that will surely never be matched. All the smugglers in these parts scare suitors away.”
He was laughing as she walked off to get dressed. It was true though, 25 and she’d only just been kissed. Three thousand pounds was enough to tempt any man on the rock, it wasn’t that. She had never asked about money, just knew what she had to live on and made do. She never really asked about anything. She didn’t even know her mother, she’d only heard the tale that Samuel Balaton came off a whaling voyage and Tanley was there waiting for him. Emilia Balaton dead already. He never spoke of her, Tanley couldn’t even say if they were married or not. Maybe it was that he gave up the sea for a daughter because Emilia was gone. She’d not heard him mention her name in 20 years.
“I’ll take you tomorrow. Today is too soon. You might want to go back to bed, Merryn will be here soon. She knows you’re here, but you might not want to let her see you. She says she’s not her father, and she’ll keep your secret, but if she hears something on conversation and she starts talking it will come out without thinking.”